MANILA, Philippines — The government’s “soft approach” in dealing with issues concerning the South China Sea does not mean the Philippines is “abandoning” its territorial claims in the area, the country’s top military official said.
Facing a panel of the Commission on Appointment (CA) on Wednesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said the country continues to uphold its claim in the highly-contested waterway.
“While we are strictly adhering to diplomatic, peaceful, and rules-based approach in dealing with issues in the South China Sea, this soft approach does mean we are abandoning our claim in that area,” Gapay told lawmakers.
“We still uphold them,” he added.
The country’s military presence in the area proves that it is upholding its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, according to the AFP chief.
“[It’s] testimony that we are upholding sovereignty and we are asserting ownership, sovereignty in that territory,” he said.