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Cayetano: Diplomatic actions being done to resolve PHL-China sea row

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday took a swipe against critics who claim that the government does not act on the militarization of areas in the West Philippine Sea, saying that diplomatic actions are being made to resolve the spat with China. 

Cayetano made the remark after reports that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

"Doon sa nagsasabi na wala kayong ginagawa, hindi nila alam yung sinasabi nila. Kasi yung ginagawa, yung diplomatic action nandoon, just because hindi tayo nakikipagsigawan, hindi ibig sabihin na walang ginagawa," Cayetano told reporters on Saturday.

Several lawmakers from the House of Representatives have condemned the installation of the anti-ship cruise missiles in the contested Spratlys.

Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano, for one, said that the development only shows the continuous aggression of China that threaten Philippines' national security.

"China continues to build up its military portfolio in the South China Sea despite its repeated pronouncements that it will not militarize the region," Alejano said.

"The actions and continuous aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea are obviously threats to our national security," he added.

For his part, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, senior vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB expressed concern about the report on Beijing's missile deployment.

He said that, at least, Manila must make diplomatic moves to express displeasure over a "creeping militarization" in the area.

"Magkaroon man lang sana ng diplomatic effort na magpahayag ng displeasure ang pamahalaan ng Pilipinas," Biazon said.

Cayetano acknowledged China's recent move is of "grave concern," given the Philippines' territorial and sovereignty rights claims in the area, but explained that there are also multiple claimants.

"Many of the claimants have features that they hold and have installations here, iba-iba yung nature. Then you have the West having their Navies sail through the area. Ito'y hindi maso-solve ng Pilipinas at ng China lamang," he said.

"It's not just between the Philippines and China. It's between China and the neighbors in the region. It's between the claimants and non-claimants. It's between the claimants and the non-regional players."

But Cayetano said discussions will continuously be held to address the territorial row. The Code of Conduct (COC) on South China Sea must likewise be expedited.

"Definitely magkakaroon ng mga forum din na pag-uusapan ito at yung COC, kailangan nating madaliin kasi pwedeng sakupin ng COC yung usapin ng militarisasyon ng mga features sa South China Sea," he said.

"From the start, naging very clear ng Pilipinas at pati ng Brunei na gusto natin huwag mag-militarize kundi mag-demilitarize ng any assets doon. But so far, of all the claimants, Pilipinas at Brunei lang ang may klarong stand na ganun," he added.

Malacañang has yet to make a comment on the matter, pending verification of the report. —LBG, GMA News