August 16, 2023
ISABELA, Philippines — To ease the tension between China and the Philippines, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Tuesday said Beijing should stop its “invasion” through harassment of the nation’s vessels and building of structures in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Teodoro’s remarks follow a statement by the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in Manila, Zhou Zhiyong, who said that the tensions between the two countries should be properly resolved through dialogues and consultations.
Zhou Zhiyong added that the country is adopting a “confrontational attitude.”
“May panawagan din tayo sa China na sana makipagtulungan din sila na tigilan ang tension,” Teodoro said in an ambush interview here in Gamu town, where he visited an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement site in the area.
(We also call for China to cooperate to stop the tensions.)
“Papaano naman iyon eh, pinapatigil nila tayo eh wala naman tigil ang pananakop nila, simple lang naman sa akin ‘iyon eh. Ok naman makipag-usap eh kaso dapat tabla,” he added.
(How could they stop us from speaking out when their acts of invasion had not stopped? It’s okay to have talks, but we should be on equal footing.)
Teodoro also said: “Nagsasabi ang China na mag-usap, fine. Pero itigil na din nila ang paggagawa ng structure sa West Philippine Sea … at sa panggigipit sa ating mga vessels.”
(China said that we should engage in talks, fine. But they should stop building structures in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the harassment of our vessels.)
Saying he knows where the official is coming from, Teodoro also defended Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the WPS, who called “traitors” and “unpatriotic” those Filipinos who defend China’s aggressive behaviors.
“Ngayon binabatikos nila ang statement ng Philippine Coast Guard. Ako naiintindihan ko kung saan sila nanggagaling,” Teodoro said.
(Now they are criticizing the statement of the Philippine Coast Guard. But I know where they are coming from.)
“Sila ang nasa front lines, sila ang nabubugahan, natural ganyan ang ilalabas nila na statement,” he added.
(They are in the front lines, the ones who were hit by water cannons, of course, they would release statements like that.)
The top defense official made these pronouncements after a China Coast Guard vessel fired a water cannon at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel and a supply ship delivering food, water, fuel, and other supplies to BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as an outpost to assert the country’s claim in the WPS.
The BRP Sierra Madre is a commissioned Philippine Navy vessel that has hosted a small contingent of military personnel since 1999 in Ayungin Shoal, a low-tide elevation about 194 kilometers off Palawan province that is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China’s actions are anchored on its assertion that it owns almost all of the areas in the South China Sea, including the WPS, through its nine-dash line.
But the Philippines challenged this before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which later invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim.