The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday refused to react to the statements of a Chinese general who called the Philippines a “troublemaker” in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, told a press briefing that DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario refuses “to dignify the statements made by the Chinese general.”
Major General Luo Yuan, a Chinese military official known for his nationalist views, took swipes at the US and Philippines regarding the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
Aside from describing the Philippines a “troublemaker” Luo also claimed the United States was “biased” for adding “fuel to the fire” by supporting Manila’s actions in the region.
Luo also warned India for stirring up trouble in the long-running border dispute between Beijing and New Delhi. India, he said, is the only country in the world that has admitted to beefing up its military because of the Chinese threat on its territory.
The disputes in the West Philippine Sea, believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and minerals, have been long standing. But it wasn’t until last year that the Philippines and Vietnam engaged in diplomatic spats with China following several intrusions into Manila- and Hanoi-claimed territories.
The naval standoff between Beijing and Manila at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) resulted in an arbitration case filed before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) by the Philippines.
Beijing refused to join the arbitration, and pushed for bilateral talks instead. Under bilateral negotiations, China has a better chance of leveraging its sheer economic weight against claimant-countries the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
At the 46th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Brunei, Beijing agreed to hold consultations for the drafting of a code of conduct in the disputed sea.
Manila welcomed the move, but del Rosario expressed hope that Beijing was “sincere.”
The nuance between “consultations” and “negotiations” was highlighted by several analysts, saying the September meeting in China is not an indication that Beijing is willing to join talks about a code of conduct.
Del Rosario and his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had “testy exhanges” during the expanded minister’s forum in Brunei, according to diplomats who attended the meeting.
He reportedly answered Wang’s allegations against the Philippines even though it was not his turn to speak.
Del Rosario has invited Wang to visit the Philippines. Wang said he will “seriously consider” the invitation.
BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON