MANILA- Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Friday insisted that the presence of Chinese ships near the Philippines’ Pag-asa island is “highly suspicious” and “dangerous” even after Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said it is only “quite natural.”
Alejano said the real issues on the recent reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa are the activities of the Chinese Navy, Chinese Coast Guard, and Chinese maritime militias against Filipino vessels in the area.
“It was about aggressive, dangerous, and highly suspicious activities of Chinese Navy, Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militias against Philippine government and civilian vessels conducting various activities in the area,” he said in a statement.
The lawmaker earlier said he received information that Chinese ships were seen again in waters near Pag-asa and 3 nearby sandbars.
The Chinese ambassador on Thursday downplayed the presence of Beijing’s vessels saying there is no need to worry since the ships are only engaged in fishing.
Pag-asa (Thitu), the second largest island Spratly group of islands, and a high-tide elevation feature, is located around 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.
Alejano also belied Zhao’s statements that China will not do anything to escalate tensions in the disputed waters in adherence to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The lawmaker said there have been instances in the past when Philippine vessels were blocked by Chinese maritime militias just along Pag-asa.
“His statements that China strictly abides by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties specifically Section 5 are not entirely true. The DOC of Parties was not just signed recently. It was, in fact, an old document which was signed fifteen years ago in 2002,” he said.
Contrary to Zhao’s claims, Alejano said Beijing has repeatedly violated the DOC.
“Testament to this was China’s grabbing of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and the numerous incidents of harassment of Filipino fishermen. It should also be noted that China has aggressively reclaimed its seven reefs from 2013-2016 in violation of international laws and the rights of the Philippines…,” he said.