MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials should not completely believe the word of Chinese officials that the presence of their vessels near Pag-asa Island was merely for fishing activities, Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano said Friday.
“It was about aggressive, dangerous, and highly suspicious activities of Chinese Navy, Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militias against Philippine government and civilian vessels conducting various activities in the area,” he said.
Alejano cited past incidence in which the path of Philippine vessels were blocked by Chinese maritime militias.
“They are massing so close to Pag-asa Island and imposing their presence there with their helicopters circling around and just recently, blowing their sirens continuously to ward off our own vessels from approaching our sand bars. Those sand bars are clearly part of the Pag-asa Island network of sea features,” he said.
The lawmaker earlier raised warning about the presence of Chinese vessels near the disputed island, but Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana downplayed the supposed presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippines Sea.
Zhao said it was natural to see their vessels in the disputed areas. He also said China was strictly adhering to the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.
China also donated 3,000 assault rifles to the Philippines on Thursday, October 5, as a gesture of “friendly and cooperative relations.”
To this, Alejano said, “We must be grateful and appreciative to the support of China by giving us rifles and ammunitions, but it must not result to our silence and inactions to China’s incursions and aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.”
“China should match its public pronouncements with its actions on the ground and respect the rights of smaller countries, like the Philippines, if it wants to be accepted as a truly responsible rising power in Asia and in the world,” he added.
While invoking the Declaration of Conduct of Parties, China has also repeatedly violated this, the lawmaker said.
“Testament to this was China’s grabbing of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and the numerous incidents of harassments of Filipino fishermen,” he said.
“It should also be noted that China has aggressively reclaimed its seven reefs from 2013-2016 in violation of international laws and the rights of the Philippines. Not only that they have reclaimed these reefs, but they have also militarized these man-made islands to the detriment of peace and stability in the area,” Alejano added.