MANILA — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. rebuffed China anew for its “unfriendly” and “belligerent” behaviour in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, stressing that China is a “squatter” for illegally occupying parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Teodoro was reacting to claims by China that it has sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea as it defended its presence near Pag-asa Island, which it calls Zhongye Island.
Teodoro even suggested in jest that China should apply for a visa to make its stay in Philippine territory legal.
Earlier, a Chinese ship shadowed and attempted to cut off a Philippine navy vessel near Pag-asa Island during a resupply mission, the Philippine military said.
“The Philippine side’s illegal occupation of Zhongye Island has seriously violated China’s sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said. “It is reasonable and lawful for Chinese warships to patrol the waters near Zhongye Island.”
“Ayoko naman matawa dahil bastos naman, pero itanong mo sa kanila ano ang ibig nilang sabihin. Sasabihin nila siguro indisputable sovereignty ng South China Sea. Ilan ang naniniwala doon? Ang illegal occupation ay kanila,” Teodoro said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum.
“Pag-inoccupy ng Pilipinas ang Hainan Island [ng China], ‘yun, illegal occupation ‘yun. Pero ‘pag dito sila within our 200-mile EEZ, sila ang squatter dito. Illegal occupants sila ditto (When the Philippines occupies Hainan Island, that’s it. That’s an illegal occupation, but when they are here within our 200-mile EEZ, they are squatters here. They are illegal occupants here.” Teodoro added.
Teodoro said military operations in the West Philippine Sea will continue as planned despite the latest Chinese harassment.
Teodoro said it is not the Philippine government which is provoking tensions in the West Philippine Sea. “To reiterate, we are not provoking anybody because we are doing legitimate activities within our 200 nautical mile EEZ and other territorial jurisdictions,” he said.
“Now, if we enter the 200 nautical mile EEZ of other countries, then that is a pure provocation, which we have no intention of doing whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard will acquire two aircraft to boost its operations in the West Philippine Sea, said Coast Guard spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo.