Gov’t taking ‘very serious’ steps on WPS concerns: DFA

MANILA An official of the Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) assured Friday that very serious steps are being done amid China's alleged militarization in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

DFA Undersecretary for Strategic Communications Ernesto Abella made this assurance in a media interview at Malacanang after a pre-departure briefing on President Rodrigo Duterte's official visit to South Korea from June 3 to 5 this year.

We would like to assure them (public) that there's a lot of very serious engagements going on, Abella, a former Palace spokesperson, said.

Abella, however, said the government cannot grant the call of the Senate and some critics to reveal classified details of the diplomatic actions.

We would like to encourage the public to trust us and rest assured that the government especially the DFA is addressing this issue, he said.

He also ensured that cooperation on the safety of the seas, travels, fisheries and environmental concerns are being made especially with China.

What we really wanted to underline is the safety of the sea that there will be no interruption along that line, Abella said.

On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte will not sit on the country's sovereign rights in the WPS.

The President, who is the chief architect of the nation's foreign policy, will not sit on our rights and will never give away even an inch of territory, Roque said in a press statement.

Roque said the Philippines will resort to all diplomatic initiatives including filing of diplomatic protest when warranted but without fanfare.

China, the world's second largest economy, had reportedly deployed anti-ship cruise missile and surface-to-air missile systems on three artificial islands the Chinese built within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China's air force has also reportedly landed a long-range H-6K bomber in Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands being claimed by Vietnam.

China has been claiming nearly the entire of South China Sea using the 9-dash line map which, according to UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), has no legal basis.

The Hague-based arbitral ruled in favor of the Philippines' arbitration case against China's demarcation line in July 2016.

China had refused to recognize the arbitral tribunal's verdict, claiming it did not participate in the arbitration proceeding.

This prompted Duterte to temporarily shelve the PCA decision to give way friendly and diplomatic approach to the territorial dispute.

The Philippines has in fact opted to use a two-pronged approach, with one dealing the non-contentious issues such trade and investment as well as people-to-people exchanges, and the other method on contentious matters like the overlapping claims in the WPS.

The diplomatic approach has resulted in the creation of the Bicameral Consultative Committee (BCM) between the Philippines and China. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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