Nothing “objectionable” as US destroyer sailed near Chinese artificial island: Abella
The Philippines sees there was nothing objectionable when a United States destroyer sailed near the Chinese artificial island in the disputed South China Sea under the "freedom of navigation" operation.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella's statement during a press briefing on Friday was in contrast of China's claim that what the USS John S. McCain did was a "provocation" and violated the international and Chinese laws.
"We’re not the spokesman for the Chinese. On the other hand, in the words of (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding the presumed innocent passage of sea craft," he said when asked of China's reaction regarding what the US ship did.
"And that there is of course the freedom of navigation. In other words, from our side --- from our side we find no objection...we don't find it objectionable," he stressed.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea as it constructed artificial islands in seven of the reefs and shoals in the area despite protests by other claimants, such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
During the recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings, one of the major issues discussed was the South China Sea disputes. Almost all of the documents that came out underscored the need for upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed waters.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has admitted that in the original draft of the AMM's joint communique, he, being the ASEAN chairman, did not include the reclamation and non-militarization in the South China Sea.
He has said it was because there was no construction by China at that time. But other foreign ministers pushed for the inclusion of no land reclamation and non-militarization in the disputed waters, which became part of the final copy of the joint communique.
After the ASEAN meetings, a US think-tank reported that China has continued with its construction in the disputed waters.
Asked to comment on latest report, Abella said, "the continuing reclamation and militarization of disputed territory in these waters, if the report and photos from a Washington-based think-tank are accurate, these can be taken up in ASEAN, by the ASEAN in future discussions."
He defended Cayetano when he said during the AMM that China was not engaged in reclamation.
"Correct me if I’m wrong. But apparently, he made that statement in context of Philippine claims, okay?...China was not reclaiming regarding matters pertaining to us (areas being claimed by the Philippines)," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS