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Despite China’s continued activity in disputed waters, Palace still clings to its ‘good faith’

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By: Xave Gregorio

Malacañang is still holding on to China’s good faith despite its continued construction on disputed waters, saying it has not breached its promise as long as it does not reclaim any further islands.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing on Tuesday (January 9) that China only committed to not make further reclamations of islands in the West Philippine Sea and did not promise to stop building structures on already-reclaimed islands, including those which an international tribunal declared to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“All I’m saying is that there is still no breach of the good faith obligation for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations,” Roque said.

Chinese state media has shown aerial shots of Kagitingan Reef, also known as Fiery Cross Reef, which now has a 2.8 kilometer airbase.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest against China if it is proven that there has been militarization of the island.

However, the Palace made light of the apparently new construction on Kagitingan Reef, as it had already been reclaimed by China.

“When we invoke the good faith of China, it is against making further reclamations and not making further works on islands that it had already reclaimed,” Roque said.

Malacañang also appeared to distance itself from a possible diplomatic protest against China, which has warmed its ties with the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

“That’s (diplomatic protest) the proper remedy ‘no. But that’s something that the Department of Foreign Affairs will have to address,” Roque said.

He added that China’s militarization of islands in disputed waters is nothing new, but maintained that the Philippines is against it as “it constitutes a further threat to peace and security in the area.”

“The fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I’m concerned, is not new, new. It’s not news. Because we’ve always been against the militarization of the area,” Roque said. “But the good faith commitment is not to reclaim new islands. I hope that’s very clear.”