MANILA – The Philippines is staying on the diplomatic track in the South China Sea issue even with tensions heightened by reports the Chinese military shooed away US personnel flying a surveillance plane over Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef last Wednesday.
”Habang kinikilala natin na mayroong tensyon, pursigido pa rin tayo at determinado pa rin tayong isulong ‘yung ating posisyon sa pamamagitan ng pagtalima sa international law (While we acknowledge the tension, we remain persistent and determined on our position to follow international law),” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said at a briefing.
Coloma stressed that the country’s position underscoring the importance of keeping freedom of navigation and freedom of aviation, and upholding international law, remains.
Reports said the Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the pilots of US’ most advanced surveillance aircraft, P8-A Poseidon, while the latter was flying over Fiery Cross Reef, part of the Philippines’ Kalayaan Island Group, where China is constructing an artificial island believed planned for an air strip.
A private video service group on Friday uploaded footage and audio of that flight from the US’ plane, providing the public an idea of the chilling moments of near-confrontation, with the voice from the “Chinese Navy” repeatedly telling the American pilots to “go away quickly!” to “avoid a misjudgment.”
Despite the incident, the US government vowed to continue its air and space patrols in the said area, stressing that the area is international airspace.
But China said on Friday it was “strongly dissatisfied” and called on the United States to stop such action or risk causing an accident.