By Macon Araneta
FilAm Star Correspondent
The White House warned that China would face “consequences” for their leaders militarizing the illegally-reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The installation of Chinese missiles were reported on Fiery Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly archipelago that Manila claims as its territory.
“We’re well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea,” said U.S. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
“We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.” Sanders did not say what those consequences would be.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines was taking the report of new missile installations seriously and was verifying the information.
He said the DFA has already coordinated with the Defense Department, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque expressed confidence that the missiles were not aimed at the Philippines.
“We are concerned with the reported China’s missile deployments over the contested areas in the WPS,” said Roque.
“But with our recently developed close relationship and friendship with China,” Roque said, they “are are confident that those missiles are not directed at us.”
He assured the public that the government would explore all diplomatic means to address the issue.
The South China Sea — which sits between Vietnam, the Philippines, China and several other countries — is subject to a myriad of competing territorial claims.
But in recent years, China has upped the ante, seizing islets and atolls in the face of protests and bellicose warnings.
Beijing reasserted its right to build “defense” facilities in the disputed region but declined to confirm reports it had installed new missiles on artificial islands it had built. It sees the area as key to pushing its defenses beyond China’s coast and securing oil supply routes.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said President Rodrigo Duterte should leverage his warm personal relationship with Chinese leaders to convince them to stop militarizing the illegally claimed islands of the West Philippine Sea.
He also said the President can serve as a peacemaker and get all major powers to de-escalate the tension in the area and prevent it from being a flashpoint.
“Now that positive steps are under way to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the same must prevail in the WPS. We cannot defuse tension in one place in Asia only to heighten it in another,” said Recto.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday said he will seek a senate investigation on Chinese leaders militarizing the illegally-reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Yes, the resolution in relation to reported missile installation and overall militarization by China of the WPS is still being drafted,” said Trillanes.
Earlier, the opposition senator said, “We, as a nation, should be alarmed by China’s militarization of the WPS.”
However, he noted that President Rodrigo Duterte “continues to invite China in by being its lapdog.”
“Militarily, in the short term, we should fast track the implementation of the EDCA, and encourage freedom of navigation patrols by the U.S. and other allies. In the medium term, we should strengthen our security alliances with the U.S., Japan, Australia and the ASEAN and continue our Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization.”
Diplomatically, Trillanes said the country should re-assert its victory in the Arbitral tribunal. And initiate a regional security summit to raise international awareness on the WPS situation.
Another opposition senator, Francis Pangilinan, said he will support a senate probe on the issue.
“Yes we do. We have said this publicly several months back. The Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defense and the AFP top brass should all be present,” also said Pangilinan, Liberal Party president.
On the other hand, Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros decried the Duterte government’s “sheepish response” to China’s installation of missiles in Philippine reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
Hontiveros raised three key points: “First, the government must court and mobilize international public opinion to our side by filing a strong diplomatic protest faithful to the ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal,”
“Second, the government must develop a coherent, consistent and progressive foreign policy. The Kuwait crisis and the threat of Chinese missiles demand that we employ real foreign affairs experts who can craft and implement a foreign policy that is resolute but adaptable, strategic and pragmatic, amiable yet patriotic, especially in handling our territorial disputes.
Lastly, she said it is paramount that the administration upgrades our naval defenses with strategic naval vessels and equipment to better secure the country’s sovereignty and territories.
In the House, lawmakers condemned the installation of missiles on territory claimed by the Philippines.
ACT Teachers Party-list Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro demanded the Duterte administration assert the country’s claims over Kalayaan group of islands and to enforce the July 2013 International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea decision favoring the Philippines.
“We demand immediate withdrawal of the missiles and the dismantling of Chinese bases in Philippine territories. We also demand President Duterte to protect the sovereignty of our country, stress our claims in the West Philippine Sea and enforce the July 2013 ITLOS decision,” Tinio added.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the actions and continuous aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea are obviously threats to our national security.
“I call on the Duterte administration to wake up from its long doze, silence and inaction. Let us not let China’s sweet talk of investments and loans lull us into a false sense of security. Their actions clearly belie their pronouncements,” Alejano, an opposition lawmaker, said.