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Concerned din pala! Palace says Cayetano raised missile deployment in WPS with China

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Malacanang on Thursday said the Philippines has discussed China’s missile deployment in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) in a recent meeting through the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) between the two countries.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it was Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano who informed him about the recent BCM discussion.

“Based on my latest information, Sec. Cayetano told me that they did not only protest but in the bilateral (consultative) mechanism, wherein West Philippine Sea is being discussed, they talked about the arms, airports, airplanes on these islands,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

Asked if the Philippines would file formal protest like what Vietnam did when it requested China to withdraw the missiles, Roque said what the Philippines did was better than filing a protest against China’s militarization of the disputed WPS or South China Sea.

“So what happened was not just protest in paper. There was open, frank, candid, frontal discussion on this issue. We have expressed frontally that we are concerned,” Roque told the media.

The Palace official, however, said the public would not be able to know right away the results of the discussion.

“That’s part of the diplomatic negotiations and communications,” Roque said.

The creation of the BCM was part of the two-pronged approach that the Philippines and China agreed to adopt under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to revive the two countries’ bilateral relations.

The first approach tackles the contentious issues such as the WPS or South China Sea dispute while second method focuses on the non-contentious matters like trades and investments as well as people-to-people exchanges.

The inaugural meeting of the BCM was held in Guiyang, China on May 19, 2017 with both sides reaffirming the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability and addressing territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.

Manila hosted the second BCM meeting last Feb. 13 where representatives from both countries agreed to highlight the importance of the meeting as a consultation mechanism that would continue to contribute to the stable development of bilateral relations.

Roque had earlier said the DFA will exercise all diplomatic approaches to address China’s deployment of missiles and military equipment in the disputed Spratly Islands.

US network CNBC has reported that China has installed anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three reefs — Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.

Beijing has reportedly confirmed the report, saying the weapons aim to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.

China deployed missiles and other military facilities despite the 2016 UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling nullifying a nine-dash line which China uses to claim nearly the whole of South China Sea.

Duterte had temporarily shelved the arbitral tribunal’s verdict to give way to friendly and diplomatic negotiations to prosper between Manila and Beijing but promised to raise the issue again within his term which will end in 2022. (PNA)