MANILA, Philippines – Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday assured those who fought against China’s territorial claim in the West Philippine Sea that their efforts won’t be wasted as the Duterte administration remained committed to defending the country’s territory from foreign incursion.
While the present administrations’s methods and strategies in addressing the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China are different from that of the previous administration, the two have the same goal, according to Cayetano.
“To those who have worked so hard here to protect our national territory, and our sovereignty just like former secretary (Albert Del Rosario), may I assure you that wee may have different strategies but we have the same objective sir,” he said in his speech during the ASEAN at 50 forum at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
Del Rosario, the DFA chief during the Aquino administration, was among those who became instrumental in challenging China’s territorial claim in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippines’ 2016 victory against the Asian giant at the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
Cayetano issued the statement apparently in response to Del Rosario’s pronouncement last Thursday during the first day of the forum that the Philippines should not barter away its sovereignty in exchange for financial aid from China.
“We cannot trade away our sovereign rights and we should not give even the impression that we are willing to do so,” Del Rosario said.
On Friday, Cayetano said “the DFA and the Duterte administration (are) committed to not giving up a single centimeter, a single square foot or square meter of our national terroritory and our sovereignty rights.”
The DFA chief also pointed out in his speech that despite the overwhelming desire of different countries for freedom of navigation over the West Philippine Sea, the interests of United States and China were somehow different.
“China says it’s theirs. Americans says it’s international waters. Both saying it is not ours. It is our interest to say that it’s ours,” he said.
He also urged for a continuing discussion with different claimants to find a solution in the maritime dispute, saying that if the Philippines would resort to going against all claimants over the disputed territories, isolationism would occur and the country would suffer.
“It’s only of sprit of discussion of continually trying to find solution that we discuss all of this,” Cayetano said.