MANILA — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has given assurances that the Philippines would raise the issue of reported Chinese developments in the South China Sea in an upcoming bilateral consultative meeting with China.
Cayetano said this when asked about the recent Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative report, which said China has completed or began working on about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters in Spratlys and in the Paracels within 2017.
Cayetano said he is aware of reports about “certain activities” in the strategic waterway, but assured that the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are always on a close watch.
Cayetano guaranteed that on a bilateral level, this subject will be addressed, particularly during the China-Philippines bilateral consultative meeting expected to be held in the first quarter of 2018.
“If it’s brought up in multilateral, ‘di tayo aatras (we will not back off) from discussing it and coming up with a solution,” he added.
He revealed that in old areas where claimants already constructed infrastructure in the past, countries are “still building.”
“Sa (In) old areas, we monitored that a lot are still building sa kanilang hawak (where they have claims). Sa (In) Pagasa, we’re repairing. Malaysia, Vietnam, China are repairing. But everyone is saying it’s defensive,” he said. “So that’s where the Code of Conduct (COC) comes in.”
He said not a part of Pagasa – the main ialsnd in the Kalayaan Island Group – or any of its features has been lost since President Rodrigo Duterte became president.
“We lost a lot in the previous administration and administrations,” he said. “Again, we’re not blaming them, but we’re trying to solve that problem.”