PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has not become complacent following China's assurance that it will not take the first shot amid the rising tension in the disputed South China Sea, Malacañang said on Tuesday, July 30.
"We do not take words of other countries at their face value. The President will always think beyond those words," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
"The President is mandated to protect the security of the country as well as the Filipino people. Hence, he will anticipate what may come out of any aggressive action that this country may undertake vis-a-vis the conflict in that area," he added.
China's reclamation activities and militarization of the South China Sea continue despite efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.
In June, China reportedly launched missiles from its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
During the 92nd anniversary celebration of the People's Liberation Army on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said that China would follow a path of "peaceful development" as it intends to resolve territorial disputes with fellow claimants in the South China Sea.
Zhao noted that Beijing is intensifying its military build-up in the busy waterway for the purpose of self-defense.
"China adopts a military strategy of active defense, which adheres to the principle of defense, self-defense and post-strike response. Meaning, we will not take the first shot," the Chinese envoy said.
"China will follow the path of peaceful development. This is a commitment to the people of China and to the world, and this has been written into the Constitution of China," he added.
Duterte has repeatedly opted to address the maritime dispute with China through diplomatic negotiation, saying Manila cannot afford to go to war with Beijing.
Panelo reiterated that for now, the current administration seeks non-adversarial approach in resolving the two nations' overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
"Even without those saying that, we always think of the security of the Filipino people," he said.
"Again, we will repeat our position, we said that the conflict in that region will be the subject of continuous negotiations between the two countries. And by such mechanism, we hope to end or resolve the conflict, whatever they are," he added. (SunStar Philippines)