China may respond to PH protest during Belt & Road forum: Palace

MANILA -- The Chinese government may explain the presence of Chinese vessels suspected to be maritime militia during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for international cooperation to be held on April 25 this year in Beijing, MalacaAang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he had no knowledge whether President Rodrigo R. Duterte would raise the issue during his attendance there, but Chinese officials might tackle it themselves.

My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they may respond to that during the bilateral talk, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

They will have to respond to our protest -- a salvo of protest, he added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Duterte to attend the Road and Belt Forum during his official state visit to the Philippines in November 2018.

Since the Philippines has already filed a "salvo of diplomatic notes" against China, Panelo said it is up to the former to respond to them during the scheduled bilateral talks.

Panelo maintained that Duterte's decision to shelve arbitration win of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to prioritize friendly bilateral ties with China is effective.

I think so, because unang-una, in-open natin yung sarili natin sa pakikipag-kaibigan sa kanila. Masama ang relasyon sa kanila noon di ba (because we opened ourselves to friendship with them. We used to have a bad relationship with them, right)? Panelo said.

Panelo noted that despite the sea row, China gave the Philippines PHP370 million worth of arms and ammunition during the Marawi siege in 2017 and funded a 150-bed rehabilitation center in Agusan del Sur.

Kumbaga may mga tulong na binibigay sa'tin (They have been helping us in times of need). We're returning the courtesy, Panelo said.

'Calibrated response'

Panelo, meanwhile, defended anew the Philippine government's calibrated response to the presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters noting that it was part of their efforts to reciprocate China's assistance.

Palaging (It should always be a) studied response tayo or calibrated response, which means vina-validate muna natin (we have to validate it first), Panelo said.

Hindi naman tayo reckless na may nagsumbong lang na 'o, may mga vessel dun' (We're not reckless that when someone reports to us that there are vessels there) we will be making reckless statements, he added.

He said part of the country's effort to reciprocate China's assistance is to be diplomatically kind but at the same time, asserting Philippine sovereignty.

By being diplomatically kind to them with respect to whatever action they're doing at the same time, asserting our sovereignty and our determination not for any foreign country to intrude into our sovereignty, Panelo said.

We are kind in the sense that we are courteous to them but with respect to sovereignty issue, ibang usapan na 'yun (that's a different story). We have to assert our sovereignty, he explained, in a chance interview with reporters.

Panelo, however, said given their friendship, China should also refrain from intruding on Philippine territorial property.

We're supposed to be friends and as the President says, friends don't do that. If we are friends, then we should be friendly in terms of our actions, Panelo said.

"It's non-negotiable," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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