Cayetano tries to downplay concerns on China war threat vs Philippines
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday downplayed concerns over China's reported threat to go to war against the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte revealed last Friday.
Cayetano did not confirm nor deny if Chinese President Xi Jinping made the threat during talks with Duterte in Beijing at the sidelines of the Belt and Road summit.
“I will not contradict the President’s words given that I can not tell you much. The context was not threatening each other that we’ll go to war,” Cayetano told a press conference.
Cayetano said he cannot divulge the exact conversation between Duterte and Xi, but stressed the meeting was “a very frank discussion.”
“My interpretation in the meeting is that there was no bullying or pushing around,” he said.
Cayetano said he was in the meeting and Duterte was merely trying to prevent any “misstep” and “conflict” so he had to inform Xi that the Philippines wanted to start drilling in the Reed Bank since “it is a disputed area.”
“We don’t want the other side, China, to start drilling there. There will be conflict if one side does it unilaterally,” Cayetano said.
Xi’s response, he noted, was not combative. “The context was about conflict resolution,” he said.
Cayetano said Duterte “has told us many, many times that he is committed to protecting our territorial integrity.”
“He will protect every single inch of our territory. Trust him on how he will do it and the strategy” he said.
“What we can commit to you is number one, we will not give up, we will not compromise our claims and number two, we are working under the framework of the Philippine constitution and international treaties and our local laws.”
Duterte last week revealed Xi threatened to use force against the Philippines if it pushes through with its plan to drill oil in the Reed Bank off the South China Sea.
Reed Bank is an offshore area which the Philippines says belongs to its exclusive economic zone but China disputes this.
Beijing said it has historic claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. DMS