AFTER being criticized for being “soft” on China, the Philippines is considering filing a diplomatic protest against Beijing following reports that it has installed sophisticated weapon systems in several disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In an interview with Kyodo News, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. was quoted as saying that Manila is “considering other diplomatic initiatives and legal processes allowed under international law” on Beijing’s renewed provocative move.
The report did not elaborate what “diplomatic initiatives and legal processes” he was referring but Charles Jose, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the top diplomat could be planning a “diplomatic protest.”
“Diplomatic [initiatives]could refer to filing of diplomatic protest. I’m not sure about legal because we already got [an]arbitral award,” Jose said in a text message.
But as of now, he said, no formal discussions on this matter have been made.
“None, as far as I know,” the official said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier said he will set aside the ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration and not impose anything on China despite the reported militarization of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies reported last week that aside from anti-aircraft guns, China installed what appears to be Close-In Weapons Systems on all seven of the artificial islands it has built. These installations were spotted at Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands and Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron (Calderon) reefs.
The Philippines is claiming Calderon reef, which is near Kalayaan island in Palawan.
In a press briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China is firmly upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the contested waters.
“It is worth noting that it is China’s right as a sovereign state under the international law to conduct construction or deploy necessary homeland defense facilities on relevant islands and reefs, whether or not China is doing this,” she said.
The official called on relevant parties to approach the issue “in an objective and reasonable way and not read too much into it.”
“China is committed to peacefully resolving relevant disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, and maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea together with ASEAN countries,” she said.