Alejano rejects DFA's position on China's alleged presence in West PH Sea

A LAWMAKER who first reported the alleged presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea has expressed disappointment over the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) position on the issue.

Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano in a statement said it is "disheartening" that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is downplaying Beijing's "suspicious" presence in the waters near Pag-asa Island.

"It is disheartening to hear our own DFA Secretary brushing aside the unusual and suspicious presence of several huge military and civilian Chinese ships along with Chinese choppers surveying in the vicinity of our largest island," Alejano said.

Cayetano in a press conference on Wednesday refused to confirm the alleged presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, but said that the situation in the area “remains stable.”

The DFA chief also said that even vessels of United States (US) regularly pass through the Philippine seas.

But for Alejano, the presence of Chinese Navy, Coast Guard and numerous fishing vessels near Pag-asa Island "means something."

"This is not even comparable to US ships conducting freedom of navigation in South China Sea which Cayetano said that we should also be worried about. [The] US is...[u]nlike China which has the history of grabbing islands and harassing our fishermen," Alejano said.

The opposition lawmaker added that the Duterte administration has the duty to be "transparent in its dealings with China and on issues in the West Philippine Sea."

"We have not heard, so far, of any diplomatic protest lodged by DFA against China's intrusions and aggressive actions especially on our fishermen...Have we already adopted the strategy of silence, inaction, and subservience in West Philippine Sea so as not to offend China?" he said.

China and Philippines returned to the negotiating table after a bitter legal battle over their overlapping claims to the South China Sea. (SunStar Philippines)
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