Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stays mum amid claims by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano that Chinese forces are massing up near Pag-asa island, with a BFAR vessel blocked from accessing Philippine sandbars.
Cayetano told House media today, “i can’t confirm nor deny because this is part of the discussions with command center but ill tell you continuous you we will tell you if its cause for diplomatic or military alarm its alarmist na bawat time…kung tayo may gagawin sa pag-asa and you have 4 navy ships ng pilipinas dyu think a china everyone will be alarmed? or will they just pick up the phone and tell us? while i cant tell you details i can tell you communication is there there are reasons for certain presence of certain vessels but the situation in the area is very stable”
Alejano reiterated Wednesday his statement on Tuesday as he released pictures to support his claim. “I received information from my sources in the military, stating that since 3 days ago, China has deployed 2 frigates, 1 Coast Guard vessel, and 2 large fishing vessels, with their maritime militia, 1-3 nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island. Further, the report said, 2 days ago a Philippine government ship from BFAR was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from going near our sand bars located generally west of Pag-asa Island, around 2-7 miles away. “
Cayetano however did say, “we’re in constant touch with our chinese counterpart…ambassador also with the foreign minister there are issues now and then there are actions taken by claimants now and then but the Department is taking it upon itself to do all diplomatic actions necessary our agreement is towards having more coast guard ships now and then meron talagang nangyayari so thats why its very improtant yung COC (Code of Conduct) but theres no none of the claimants are building or inhabiting new features so while it’s true that there’s still construction.. that includes us the president has been open about that…walang nag iimpede sa atin from doing that”
Cayetano said, “the presence of ships alone does not mean anything for example let me ask cong alejano why were we not concerend about the US doing freedom of navigation? ang lalaki ng ships nila. kasi they are allies if we keep looking at china as the enemy everytime na may movement sila masyado tayo nagrereact if we start developing mutual trust with them we pick up the phone and call them bakit kayo maraming ships dito. we even invited them here… twice na sila nagdock na rin sa Pilipinas
it is good we have people like Cong Alejano… but theres a thin line between informing us and stirring up the sitiation there is no situation that is a cause of lowering of mutual trust between all of the claimants … are there serious concerns yes the joint communique says that”
when pressed by media. Cayetano ruled out the filing of a diplomatic protest. “pag sinabi mong diplomatic protest in the past it was our stategy to confront china every oppritunity we have and the diplomatic protest is one of the instruments we used thats not our startegy now our strategy now is to have peace and security and dialogue.. when we used to do things in their face tuloy tuloy yung building walang paguusap sa oil and gas walang paguusap fisheries..walang paguusap sa protecting the environment”
Cayetano however also clarified , “i’m not saying were not filing any of the c protest protest can be verbal or wretten can be bilateral or multilateral can be sent through embassy or thorugh us..consistent yan basta sila lumapit may message na pinapadala whether our dept or the military that yorue encoraching upon PHL territory inthe same way pag tayo lumapit sila rin magsasabi. thats the way they y assure constituents work that their protecting national interest.”
Cayetano stressed that the maritime dispute in the WPS is not the same as disputes over land where failure to protest an occupant would facilitate that occupant’s possible ownership of the property. However Cayetano said, “we will tell you if nothing is happenning.why will we announce it pa magkakapahiyaan pa.”
Cayetano cautioned the public from seeing China as the enemy or that the US is 100% on the side of the Philippines. For the DFA Chief, “we will not give a single inch a single squaremeter or single centimenter but it should not define our whole relationship with our neighbors…”
Earlier in the press conference, Cayetano stressed the importance of not being transparent in diplomatic talks. “but in diplomatic negotiations the less you use the microphone or the megapohone the more room you have to negotiat the reality is it’s an internationally accepted exception to FOI yung diplomatic negotiations there are things you are working on but if you broadcast it …mabibiso yung the things youre working on 2ndly there are things that youre working on but paglahat ng information lumabas things can get worse or better…”
Cayetano says that the government is now working on building mutual trust. “one of the benefits of developing mutual trust and of having a system of dialogue with china is that our fishermen are now fishing in many areas where they could not fish before. there are many areas where we need to preserve areas na may giant clams spawning ground ng fish kasama na lagoon sa scarborough shoal napagusapan na ng phl chn tentatively na protected fishermen nila natin poachers nila kung may poachers tayo bawal lahat”
On Tuesday, Cayetano explained the Philippine foreign policy to congressmen when he faced the House Foreign Relations Committee. Cayetano admits enforcement of the Philippine victory in the arbitration case filed against China over the West Philippine Sea remains a problem. “we won the legal…but on the ground we were getting nowhere.” Cayetano maintained that President Duterte did not increase the tensions with China but he also did not discard the arbitral award. Cayetano explains that the President is building mutual trust but it will raise the award with China at the proper time. Cayetano says the government already has a tentative fisheries agreement and they are now working on having each country’s coast guard police the spawning grounds that will be preserved.
Cayetano adds that the DFA or any president cannot compromise Philippine territory but it also cannot go head on with other countries without thinking of national interest. Cayetano says that if the Philippines becomes aggressive, it also loses out on trade, investments on tourism,
“ the work is a balancing act”
Cayetano maintained that foreign policy will be guided by national sovereignty , territorial intergity, national interest and the right to self determination.
On wednesday, Cayetano reiterated that they are also working on joint exploration and development, assuring lawmakers that “any legal framework we may come up will conform with local laws and constitution my personal stand yung malampaya no dispute if we can come up with a commercial deal thats better than malampaya how can any filipino argue if the deal is worse why should we go into it it cannot violate the constitution because the SC will not allow us to proceed.”
Cayetano also said, “it’s a directive of the president and we need it dahil yung malampaya will run out hopefully in a decade hopefully not less than a decade there are 2 areas one is the undisputed yung mga areas na di disputed meron nang nagaganap na exploration there will be commercial joint ventures there just like malampaya sa disputed areas maraming speculation over the decades na kaya disputed not only because of marine life but because of the resoruces carbon deposits..”
Cayetano adds, “ang instruction sa amin ngayon is to move ahead kahapon nagusap kami ng SOE to have better coordination and then humingi rin ako ng tulong dahil sila may technical expertise im confident sec cusi..and his team… will be able to come up with a doable or workable legal framework walang mawawalang territory walang mawawalang sorvrignngty rights”