Alan Peter Cayetano

Alan Peter Cayetano

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano gave assurances that the government is taking all necessary diplomatic actions in responding to China's actions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"We are taking diplomatic actions. Just because we are not announcing that we have filed diplomatic protest, or note verbale does not mean that we are not doing something," Cayetano said in a radio interview on Sunday.

He said the objective of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration is the same as the goal of the previous administration--to protect the Philippines' sovereign and economic rights.

Unlike the previous administration of former President Benigno Aquino III, the Duterte administration opted to resolve the issue without engaging in a shouting match with China, Cayetano said.

He noted that it was during the time of the previous administration when China occupied and reclaimed more areas in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA chief said under Deterte, China stopped occupying uninhabited areas and Filipino fishermen were once again allowed to fish in the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal.

"In fact, if the Liberal Party won, China would (have) built structures in Scarborough, and our allies would not stop it because they do not intervene in territorial disputes," Cayetano said.

He stressed that the government is not disregarding the latest development in the disputed waters but the problem cannot be solved between China and the Philippines alone.

"There is a need for all claimants like Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and China to talk. And we also have to talk to the west," he said, referring to the western countries that also have interest in the area.

Cayetano cited the need to involve the United States in the issue because in the point of view of China, the US navy has gotten more aggressive.

Cayeteno said the problem is hot to get everybody to sit down and talk to resolve the issue.

"It's not perfect, we are concerned and we are doing diplomatic actions," he added.

He dismissed claims that the Philippines had given up its maritime claims because it is not protesting against China.

"We are not disregarding the developments. What we are saying is that this cannot be resolved by Philippines and China alone, all claimants need to discuss, try to address the issue," Cayetano added.

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay however warned that the Philippines' "weak" stance on the "illegal" activities of China could have serious repercussions, including the possibility of Beijing having full control of the entire sea.

Hilbay said the Philippines has exclusive rights over the entire WPS, based on the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which means that all activities being conducted by China on the said waters are illegal.

The international court declared on July 12, 2016 that the Philippines had exclusive economic rights over reefs and waters that lie within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

"That is why if we said that the West Philippine Sea belongs to us, we are not making an opinion but stating an established court decision," Hilbay said.

He warned that the tribunal's ruling may be put to waste because of the refusal of the Duterte administration to assert its legal rights and filing a protest against China.

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