By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Malacañang’s reaction to the expressions of concern over the recent Chinese deployment of missiles in the Spratly islands is one of nonchalance supposedly because Beijing said it would not use these against the Philippines and that China is a better source of assistance than America.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the improving ties between the Philippines and China is assurance enough that China will not use its missiles against the Philippines. This echoed President Duterte’s earlier remarks when security experts warned that China’s installation of missiles in the Spratly islands threatens the Philippines’ international access in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte said China has not asked for anything in return for its assistance to the Philippines as he allayed concerns of some groups over Beijing’s reported deployment of missiles on the disputed areas.
“To this day, ni papel o lapis, walang hiningi ang China pati Russia,” Duterte said. According to him, one word was enough to persuade China and Russia to provide help to the Philippines, unlike western nations that impose their policies.
Anders Corr of The Journal of Political Risk said, “It threatens in the future to constrict Philippines access to the outside world,” he told a TV news forum.
Earlier this week, Beijing confirmed that it has indeed installed missiles in the Spratly islands but maintained that the move “targets no one.” The Chinese army installed anti-ship and air-to-air defenses on outposts claimed by the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries. The new Chinese missiles were reportedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.
The “listless and weak” response of the Philippine government to this, opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said, is an “insult” to the bravery and sacrifices of the Filipino soldiers, and an “abdication” of its duty to protect the safety of Filipinos, especially fishermen.
Hontiveros said despite the lack of resources and infrastructure, Filipino soldiers stationed in the areas facing the South China Sea had bravely maintained the country’s presence in the region and ensured the integrity of the Philippine territory.
“It is thus, a grave insult to our soldiers and a mockery of their sacrifices that the Duterte government has chosen to continue to be subservient to Chinese interests in the face of the country’s biggest security threat,” Hontiveros said.
“Where is now the bravado of the so-called strongman? Our soldiers in the West Philippine Sea have been threatened with missiles, yet the commander-in-chief’s response is still pro-China? What kind of leadership is this?” she added.
At Malacañang, Roque acknowledged the potential security threat but said: “You can’t ignore the fact that because of very good relations, we can be confident that China as a country does not view us as a threat and there is no reason they will use it on us.”
He also denied that the latest Chinese actions were a betrayal of its previous promise to the Philippines.
Hontiveros slammed the statements and said these remarks were to be expected from China’s “fifth column,” a group of people which undermines a nation in favor of another country. She wondered if it was already the policy of the government to allow superpowers to install missiles in the country’s backyard for as long as they were not directed at the Philippines.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano said Manila is hoping to ease the tension before it could further rise by seeking a multilateral approach to the security problem towards forging a code of conduct among the involved parties.