Palace on China's not taking first shot: We don't take words on ''face value''
Malacanang is not taking China's words on its face value that it would not make the first shot in the wake of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
"We do not take words of other countries on their face value," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing when asked if the Palace would take as an assurance Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinahua's statement China would not engage in a war as it would not take the first shot.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte "will always think beyond those words."
"The President is mandated to protect the security of this country as well as the Filipino people. Hence, he will anticipate what may come out of any aggressive action that this county may undertake vis-a-vis the conflict in that area," he added.
Zhao, during the celebration of the 92nd anniversary of the People's Liberation Army in a hotel in Makati City on Monday, said 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," he said.
The Chinese envoy said the PLA is also open to further deepen relationship with the Philippine counterpart.
"The Chinese PLA is ready to deepen mutual understanding, mutual trust, and mutual confidence with their Filipino counterpart so that jointly we'll promote further cooperation and friendship between our two nations, two countries and jointly we can ensure regional peace and stability," he said.
On the South China Sea dispute, Zhao called for patience to settle the issue among claimant countries, including the Philippines.
"For China, for the Philippines and for other claimant countries, it’s not easy to settle. It cannot be settled overnight. So we should be patient. We should have confidence in our wisdom that sooner or later we can settle it peacefully," he said.
"But pending the peaceful settlement in the future, we will need to put our differences in proper context. We cannot let the 1 percent differences to hijack the whole 99% of friendship and cooperation as hostage. This is what I call the realistic and pragmatic approach," the ambassador said.
While Zhao called for patience, China, which has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the exclusive economic zones of other countries, like the Philippines, has been taking an aggressive stance in the disputed waters.
During the past years, it allegedly constructed artificial islands and heightened its military activity in the area.
Zhao also said China and the other Southeast Asian countries have agreed to finalize the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as early as possible.
"The deadline we have set is within three years. We would like to finalize the COC while the Philippines is the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations. And this is what President Duterte would like to see to happen," he said.
Other ASEAN countries which have claims in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. Taiwan is also one of the claimants. Celerina Monte/DMS