THE arrival of Chinese bombers on islands and reefs claimed by the Philippines has alarmed the Southeast Asian nation and now Manila says it is taking “appropriate diplomatic action” on the matter.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines said it was monitoring developments after China’s air force landed bombers such as the H-6K on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of training exercises last week, drawing angry reactions from opposition lawmakers in Manila.
The United States also sent ships to the disputed areas.
“We are taking the appropriate diplomatic action necessary to protect our claims and will continue to do so in the future,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We reiterate our commitment to protect every single inch of our territory and areas which we have sovereign rights over,” the statement said.
However, the foreign ministry stopped short of condemning China’s action, which Washington said could raise tensions and destabilise the region.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about US$3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area, according to Reuters.
China has built seven artificial islands in the Spratlys group in the South China Sea and turned them into military outposts with airfields, radars, and missile defences.
Beijing says its military facilities in the Spratlys are purely defensive and that it can do what it likes on its own territory.
Filipino lawmakers have criticised President Rodrigo Duterte for not confronting China in preference for his attempts to win China’s friendship, despite a favourable ruling Manila received over the disputed waterway from an arbitration court in the Hague in 2016.
Duterte has said he would not risk a confrontation with China and has reiterated his openness to undertaking joint exploration and development in waters believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.
On Saturday, Duterte stressed that he would not go to war over the West Philippine Sea because the Philippines did not have the military capability to take on China.
Duterte added that the Philippines arbitration against China months before he assumed office in July 2016.
“It did not come during my term,” the President said, as quoted by The Inquirer.
“But then again, if I were the President at that time, what could I have done? I can send my Marines there. I can send every policeman there. But what will happen? They will all be massacred.”