Sept. 25, 2014
NEW YORK – President Aquino believes Beijing’s intrusion into contested territories in the South China Sea is not just a Philippine problem but a concern for every nation that plies the resource-rich waters.
China’s intimidating actions in the South China Sea was among the key issues discussed by President Aquino in a series of interviews with the international press in New York.
“It is a matter of national concern, but it’s not just our concern. We believe that, besides the claimant countries, it affects everybody who has to traverse the South China Sea. There is an estimated 40 percent of world trade has to go through this body of water,” the President said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Aquino said the Philippines will continue to stick up for its territorial rights in the tense, disputed waters despite its lack of military muscle.
“We recognize realities on the ground. But at the same time we do feel that if we don’t protect our rights, then we can’t expect anybody else to protect our rights. And our constitution mandates me to uphold items like sovereignty. I don’t have a choice, and at the end of the day I do have to protect the interests of our country and our people,” he said.
He also expressed concern China might be planning to dispatch an oil rig to Recto or Reed Bank where it had sent two hydrographic ships in June.
In a separate interview with the New York Times, Aquino said the Philippines’ relationship with China is “confusing at times.”
He said that while trade between the Philippines and China continues to grow, Beijing has also issued a travel advisory that warned its nationalS from going to the Philippines.
He also noted that there was a time that China stopped Philippine exports of bananas
“At the end of the day, it goes from hot to cold, sometimes they’re very conciliatory, sometimes they make very provocative statements,” he said in the NYT interview.
“We will confess we don’t understand some of the messages sometimes. We’re not sure.”
Aquino told Bloomberg that China needs to continue growing so it is not in its interest to forestall trade in the region.
He said that while the Philippines is increasing its defense spending, it is not meant to serve as a threat to anybody.
China has not yet responded to President Aquino’s latest remarks but in the past, it has shown no hesitation to apply economic leverage against the Philippines for various reasons.
Earlier this month, China warned its citizens not to travel to the Philippines amid a spate of kidnappings of Chinese nationals and a foiled plot to attack the Chinese embassy and interests in the country.
The alert had an immediate impact on tourist spots like Boracay, budget carriers like Cebu Pacific as well as hotels, restaurants and tour operators.
Before the travel warning, China was the Philippines’ third-largest inbound tourist market after South Korea and the United States.