Palace disagrees with US on China capitalizing pandemic to push territorial claims

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Malacañang Palace, on Tuesday, said it disagreed with the United States’ perception that is taking advantage of pandemic coronavirus to push its territorial ambitions in the South Sea.

“We do not agree with that conclusion. Although the current policy is we will defend all our national territory and our sovereign rights,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.

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Roque gave the statement a week after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told foreign ministers in Southeast Asia that China had advanced its claims in the South China Sea despite the global pandemic.

“Beijing has moved to take advantage of the distraction, from China’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea, its sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier this month, and its ‘research stations’ on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also accused China of deploying militarized ships to intimidate other countries claiming territories in the South China Sea from developing offshore gas and oil projects.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said he thinks China meant no harm when its warship pointed a radar gun at the Philippine Navy vessel in February 2020.

He said the latest radar gun incident doesn’t mean China wanted to harm the Philippines. He said China might just want to know how the country’s military would react.

He added that Chinese ships challenging Philippine vessels in the disputed West Philippine Sea was common in the areas. Lorenzana believes China would not launch an attack on Philippine ships and aircrafts traveling the area.

DFA files protests against China

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on April 22, filed two diplomatic protests against China over its recent activities in the West Philippine Sea that violated both international law and Philippine sovereignty.

“At 5:17 pm today, the Chinese embassy received 2 diplomatic protests: 1. on the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters and 2. declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. wrote on Twitter.

Two weeks ago, the Philippine government stood with Vietnam after a Chinese ship sank a fishing boat from Vietnam in disputed South China.

China also established research facilities and mental health stations in the artificial islands they build in the West Philippine Sea.

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