MANILA, Philippines – An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday, August 22, said a Chinese flag mounted on a steel pipe was found planted on a sand cay close to Kota Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Kota Island is part of the Kalayaan Islands, which is controlled by the Philippines. It is also being claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
In a press briefing, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano cited “information [he] received” that the 3 meter-high Chinese flag was discovered around the 3rd week of July 2017.
“The continuous activities of China in the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea are very concerning. These recently reported incidents only reveal that Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea have not stopped amid warmer relations between the Philippines and China,” said Alejano.
He had earlier revealed “extraordinary activities” by China in the West Philippine Sea, including the barring of a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel from approaching the area.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano downplayed the reported activities by Chinese vessels, but photos from a Washington-based think tank appeared to corroborate Alejano’s claims.
Alejano said the foreign affairs department was made aware of the most recent alleged activity of China in the area. “Yes. I know alam nila 'yan, [pero] ayaw lang nila sabihin,” said Alejano. (I know they know about this. They just don’t want to talk about it.)
Again citing sources whom he refused to name, Alejano said it was a Chinese civilian ship that planted the flag.
“On this account, I call on China, as part of the family of nations, to stay true to its public pronouncements and assurances by matching its actions on the ground. This has become a pattern wherein one [thing] is said and another is done,” said the lawmaker.
“I also reiterate my call for Philippine government officials, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs, to be transparent on issues regarding the West Philippine Sea. Their denial or silence and inaction are not helping while things like these happen on the ground,” said Alejano, a former Marine.
Alejano said that the government doesn’t need to give the public all the details, “but they must release something for the consumption of the public.”
“Ang sa atin dito…maramdaman din ng China na alam natin. Kasi 'yung ang weapon natin: monitoring, support ng public, ng international community. Pag i-downplay 'yan, ano pa leverage mo?” said Alejano. (My point here is to let China know that we know what they’re doing. Those are our weapons – monitoring, public support, the support from the international community. If you downplay it, what leverage do you have?)
The lawmaker said he did not know whether the flag was still there as he spoke, but said the act in itself was a “manifestation of ownership.”
“There are non-military and non-confrontational options to defend our territories and assert our rights as opposed to the confined and limited view of the President of going to war. For once, the President should not think of violent and forceful means to solve problems,” he added.
Philippine and Chinese relations during the last administration soured over the dispute in the West Philippine Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte has pushed for an “independent foreign policy” that has so far manifested in distancing from the United States and working closely with China and Russia. – Rappler.com