Manila: The Philippines wants the US and China to hold a dialogue to avoid incidents similar to the September 30 hazardous actions, involving an American and a Chinese warship.
Foreign Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano said that just like how President Rodrigo Duterte declared that the Philippines is “friends to all and enemies to no one”, the government calls on China and the US to sit down and have a “heart-to-heart” talk to avoid an incident that could be a potential cause of conflict between the two countries that could also involve countries the region.
Last September 30, a Chinese warship sailed dangerously close to the American guided-missile destroyer, the USS Decatur, as the two vessels traversed the Kalayaan Island Group.
The Kalayaan group represents islands claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea.
The Chinese vessel was apparently trying to warn off the US warship that it is sailing in areas claimed by China as part of its sovereign territory. The American vessel was conducting “freedom of navigation” operations when the incident took place.
The US, Britain, Australia, as well as Japan, believes that the sea lanes in the South China Sea should remain open to transit.
“China has a different stand regarding the South China Sea, the US has a different stand, and the Philippines has a different stand. And the dynamics of superpowers are different from that of the middle powers or countries with soft power,” Cayetano said.
“We will continue to see these irritants or arguments until the US and China sit down and the regional players sit down,” he added.
China had been “militarising” the several islands it had reclaimed from the ocean in the South China Sea, by placing missile batteries as well as airbases from where bombers and fighter aircraft can be launched.
The Kalayaan Island Group, located in the Spratlys, is being claimed by China as part of its sovereign territory.
Aside from the Kalayaan, the Philippines said China is claiming areas such as the Mischief Reef, which is just more than 200 nautical miles away from Northern Philippines’ Zambales.
Cayetano said China also needs to clarify its other claims concerning the extent of its territory, since Filipino fishermen are being deprived of rich fishing grounds that they had been using for generations because of its territorial claims.
Ships of China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army-Navy had been warning Filipino fishermen who venture close to their garrisons, while similar threats were being made over the radio to Philippine Air Force aircraft flying close to the fortified island’s airspace.