Sunday, January 14, 2018

No reason to doubt China’s ‘good faith’ amid actions in disputed waters – Roque

Published January 14, 2018, 12:05 AM

By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Malacañang said yesterday that the government continues to trust China’s good faith in its commitment to not reclaim any islands or build infrastructures in the disputed portions of the South China Sea.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the comment after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday that the Philippines will file a diplomatic complaint against China for reneging on its promise not to undertake militarization on artificial islands in the disputed waters.

Roque, in a press briefing in Cebu City Saturday, said the Philippines will continue to rely on China’s good faith on the South China Sea which has seven countries claiming portions of it as part of their national territory.

“The general thrust is to rely on the principle of good faith. The scope of this principle of good faith is in China’s commitment not to reclaim new areas or not to build new artificial islands,” Roque said.

“And so far, we believe there has not been any reason why we should doubt China’s good faith on the building, on its commitment to desist from making new reclamations or from building new islands,” he added.

Last month, Reuters reported that Beijing confirmed that the Chinese capital has “reasonably” expanded its islands in the South China Sea, noting that its construction projects last 2017 have now covered about 72 acres.

The report added that according to China’s National Marine Data and Information Service, the Asian giant has conducted extensive land reclamation work on some of the islands and reefs it controls in the South China Sea, including building airports, alarming its neighbors and Washington.

On Christmas Day 2017, Roque said in a text message that the government will trust China since the location of these works is still unknown.

“We don’t know where these works are. We continue to rely on China’s good faith. Location is material since we do not have claims on all the islands and waters in the disputed area,” he noted.

President Duterte has set aside the issue of the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea in a bid to establish a good relationship with China.

However, last November, Duterte surprised the world, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, when his view on the disputed waters changed while thanking China for its help in the war in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Aside from the Philippines and China, other South China Sea claimants include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

China in Benham Rise

Meanwhile, Roque addressed reports about China’s maritime scientific research in Benham Rise which was approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The Palace official said that the Philippines has exclusive rights over Benham Rise but can allow other countries to conduct research there.

“We have sovereign rights over Benham Rise since it was awarded to us as an extended continental shelf, we have the right to exclusively explore, exploit, and even conduct scientific research,” he said.

“But the exclusive right means that we can also consent if foreigners would want to do it. For as long as we consent, it would be legal,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano earlier expressed that there should be nothing suspicious about the maritime research.

Cayetano also addressed the claim of Magdalo representative Gary Alejano that DFA granted the request of China while rejecting a similar plea from a French think tank.

He said that he will verify the details but assured that the DFA has the same rules for all the countries

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