Alejano rings bells on China naval moves off Pagasa Island in Spratlys

August 15, 2017 - 4:36 PM
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Pagasa Island Spratlys
Aerial view of Pagasa Island in the Spratly Archipelago.

MANILA, Philippines – Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano on Tuesday raised alarm over reports of what he described as the “suspicious” massing of Chinese Navy and Coast Guard vessels north of Pagasa Island in the Spratlys Archipelago, which he said was a potential threat to our country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea.

If the Chinese action is proven true, he said, the Philippines should lodge a diplomatic protest.

“They should be told to leave. We also call on our government to be transparent. Tell us, what is really happening?” he said in a news conference.

Alejano, a former military officer, said he has received information from his sources in the defense establishment that, since August 12, China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel, and two large fishing vessels with their maritime militia. The vessels were reportedly spotted one to three nautical miles north of Pagasa Island.

A military report he obtained is said to indicate that, two days ago, a government ship from the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from approaching the sand bars located west of Pagasa Island, two to seven miles away.

“This is highly suspicious and threatening, considering the fact that China says one thing in public and does another behind the scene. For example, our fishermen continue to be harassed in West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Navy or Coast Guard. Let us not forget what happened in 1995, when they grabbed Mischief Reef from us.

“This must be taken seriously by our government, and we should call the attention of China to order their ships away from Pagasa Island and file an appropriate diplomatic protest against China. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China,” he added.

On Tuesday, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano conducted a briefing before lawmakers on the Duterte administration’s foreign policy.

“The paramount considerations are national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and right to self-determination. It is an enumeration, it is not a priority list. But the Constitution directs us to ensure all four. Meaning, territorial integrity is just number two,” he said.

Cayetano said “if we’re going to be aggressive towards other countries because of the national territory issue, we will lose out in trade, investments, and tourism.”

However, he added that “we will not compromise our territorial integrity just to get tourists, just to get the foreign investments.”

“So, really, the work is a balancing act,” he said.

Cayetano requested for an executive session with the lawmakers after his brief presentation.