A presidential spokesman has said he is “confident” that Chinese missiles installed on the Spratly Islands are not pointing towards the Philippines.
Speaking today (Friday, May 4), Harry Roque said: “With our recently developed close relationship and friendship with China, we are confident that those missiles are not directed at us.”
He also referred to the islands where the missiles have reportedly been deployed as “contested areas”.
“We are concerned with the reported China’s missile deployments over the contested areas in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
However, Panganiban — or Mischief — Reef cannot be considered as disputed, due to the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling that the Philippines had sole sovereign rights to it.
Aside from Panganiban Reef, Chinese missiles have reportedly been deployed on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef, according to US network CNBC.
China has already built a military-grade runway, hangars and radomes for radar equipment and other facilities on Mischief Reef.
Despite its confidence that the missiles would not be used against the Philippines, Roque stressed that the government would nonetheless address the issue through “diplomatic means”.
“Be that as it may, we would explore all diplomatic means to address this issue,” he said.
Missiles ‘Aquino’s fault’
Also speaking today, President Duterte wrongly blamed his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for China’s artificial islands in the disputed waters, claiming he did not act swiftly enough after the court of arbitration’s ruling.
However, the ruling was issued on July 12, 2016 — two weeks into President Duterte’s administration.
“Aquino filed an arbitration case, we won, he was still there. Why didn’t he do it if that’s what the yellows [Liberal Party] wanted?
“You had so many months there. Why didn’t you go there and scold them?”
The case against China’s annexations of the islands was launched by President Aquino about three years before the ruling was issued.
In the early days of his presidency, Duterte even thanked Aquino for the ruling, describing it as his “ace card”.
However, today the president not only heaped blame on the previous administration, but also the USA, which he said had not aggressively contested China’s reef-building activities.
“The only country who could have stopped them was America. They could’ve parked their boats there and scolded them,” he said.