The Philippines also has the right to defend every inch of its territory, President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s spokesman said on Sunday, after China made a similar warning.
Spokesman Herminio Coloma’s remarks came after China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said on Saturday said his country would vigorously defend its sovereignty against “unreasonable demands from smaller countries”.
Although he was referring to Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China, his remarks could also cover China’s other territorial dispute with the Philippines and other countries over parts of the South China Sea.
“It is the right of every country to defend its national territory. That is also the principle we are following,” Coloma told reporters, commenting on the Chinese minister’s remarks.
Coloma added that the Philippines was basing its position on the principles of international law like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam are all claimants to parts of the South China Sea, a major sea lane and rich fishing ground which is believed to sit on vast mineral deposits.
The Philippines has also expressed growing concern at the increased aggressiveness of the Chinese in pressing their claim to almost all of the waters, even up to the coasts of its neighbours.
The Philippine government has sought UN arbitration under UNCLOS to settle the dispute but China has rejected the move.
Last month the Philippines lodged a protest after the Chinese coast guard allegedly attacked Filipino fishermen off a disputed South China Sea shoal with water cannon on January 27. Beijing rejected the protest.