MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, May 6, slammed China’s reported installation of missile systems on 3 islands in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines.
In a statement, Robredo urged the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China to assert the Philippines’ rights.
She also criticized the “increased militarization” of Philippine waters, which violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“We are alarmed at the reports stating that the People’s Republic of China has installed missile systems on 3 of our islands in the West Philippine Sea, namely, Kagitingan, Zamora, and Panganiban Reefs. The increased militarization is in violation of UNCLOS and serves to contribute to regional instability, compromise our security, and further curtail our sovereignty,” Robredo said.
In a separate interview with dzBB’s Nimfa Ravelo, however, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday said the Philippines is taking “diplomatic action” over these reports. (READ: Beijing ‘installs missiles’ on South China Sea islands)
Cayetano has repeatedly said, however, that the Duterte administration is not keen on filing and publicizing diplomatic protests against China. This is because the Philippines wants to boost ties with the Asian giant.
Asked if the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China, Cayetano said, “I will tell you that there is diplomatic action being taken.”
He added that the Duterte administration is “not in the habit” of telling “the specifics of every move, because we look at the overall relationship.”
Malacañang earlier said it is “concerned” about this reported installation, but is “confident that those missiles are not directed at us.”
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fiercest critics, said the reported Chinese missiles should serve as a “wake-up call” for the Philippines.
Read Robredo’s full statement below:
We are alarmed at the reports stating that the People’s Republic of China has installed missile systems on 3 of our islands in the West Philippine Sea, namely Kagitingan, Zamora, and Panganiban Reefs. The increased militarization is in violation of UNCLOS and serves to contribute to regional instability, compromise our security, and further curtail our sovereignty.
Heightened tensions in the area will be to the detriment of all parties concerned. The region of the West Philippine Sea is a major passageway for ships from different countries conducting trade around the world. This area should continue to serve as an open waterway for all countries, in accordance to international laws.
We urge the administration to take immediate and appropriate actions, including the filing of a diplomatic protest, to protect what is rightfully owned by the Filipino people, in line with the ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal.
It is in the interest of all parties concerned to find a long term solution to the ongoing impasse. It is critical for our government to work with our neighbors and friends who have a stake in the region to craft a just and peaceful agreement – taking into account international laws and respect for each nation’s sovereignty.