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RP to bring up China buildup in bilateral

By Ted Tuvera

The government will raise all reported developments including the reported continuous buildup of structures in the disputed areas in South China Sea during today’s talks between Philippines and China for the second bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM), Malacañang said yesterday.
“The second meeting of this Philippine-China bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila, February 13, 2018,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a Palace briefing.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the BCM was initially scheduled December 2017 but was postponed to today.
The first meeting of the Philippines-China BCM on the South China Sea was held in Guiyang, Guizhou Province in China last May 19, 2017.
Roque said that the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo while the Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.
Recently, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they would urge the foreign affairs department to file a diplomatic protest should they “see that the Chinese are militarizing the area (that is) very near our place.”
This was in response to a report of state-run China Central Television (CCTV), which bared shots of Fiery Cross Reef that appears to have been “transformed into an airbase.”
Lorenzana said the Fiery Cross Reef is “very near” Reed Bank, an area in the South China Sea situated within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
According to Cayetano, while developments on the resolution over the longstanding sea dispute are not yet one hundred percent done, the establishment of the BCM enabled the two parties to move forward.

Cayetano assured that all activities in any of the features in the contested region, including the reported airbase in the area, will be raised at the BCM.
RP holds on good faith
Roque said the “general thrust” of the Philippines “is to rely on the principle of good faith” in dealing with China.
Roque said the scope of this principle of good faith is in China’s commitment not to reclaim “new areas” or build “new artificial islands” in the strategic waters.
“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 reclamation or from building new islands,” he said.
Roque, however, said the government stands by the standing diplomatic protests against the Asian military giant.
Roque clarified that the government is not mounting new actions against Beijing in the face of recently furnished structures at reefs situated in the disputed portions of the South China Sea.
Roque hopes that such iteration would dispel critics’ claim that the administration of President Duterte is not being assertive of the country’s sovereignty.
“I confirm, we have protested not only the building of the islands but also the alleged militarization of the islands,” Roque said.
“Contrary to claims of critics, we have long protested the military use of the artificial islands in the South China Sea,” he added.
The Palace official said Manila sees no need to file a new complaint since the standing protests are related to the then incomplete military stations at the Kagitingan Reef, known internationally as Fiery Cross Reef; Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi) and McKennan (Hughes) reefs.
“There is no new protest because there’s been—basically we have protested those [that] has been described as militarization or the stationing of military hardware in the artificial islands,” he said.
Back in January 2017, rejected DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said that the Philippines has filed “three or four” diplomatic protests over China’s reported weapon installations at that time.
Yasay did not reveal what these cases are.
We are not being soft on China, there are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned,” he added.

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