PH wants Asean position on China naval drills

MANILA–The Philippines wants Southeast Asian nations to discuss China’s proposal of holding naval drills with the Association of Southeast Asian Nation countries in the South China Sea.

“The Philippine position will be discussed in Asean. Hintayin na lang po natin ‘yung magiging discussion na ito,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said when asked to comment on China’s proposal.

China’s defense minister said on Friday he was willing to hold joint drills in the disputed South China Sea with Southeast Asian countries to prevent accidental encounters and for the effective conduct of search and rescue operations.

China’s relations with several Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, have soured in recent years because of the Asian giant’s assertive posture in the region.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, which is a major sea lane for trade.

As to the meeting of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin with the representative of China and the improving relations between the two countries, Valte reiterated the multifaceted relations of China and the Philippines despite their differences in the South China Sea issue.

“We have always maintained that our relationship with China is multifaceted—meaning, maraming level, maraming pinag-uusapan,” Valte said.

“At naniniwala naman tayo na kahit mayroong sigalot involving our neighbor, we will always endeavor to do well and to deepen the other facets of our relationship,” she added.

“Our lines of communication have always been open when it comes to discussing the other facets of our relationship,” Valte said.

Valte also commented on the plan of the US to fly surveillance planes in the South China Sea to insist freedom of navigation saying it’s up to the US to carryout such military activities.

The Philippines has no right to dictate on what another country wishes to do on a particular situation, she said.

Valte emphasized however that freedom of navigation and regional stability must be maintained in the area because a good bulk of world trade passes through that region.

“It is important that parties are free to pass through without any intimidation or harassment, and everyone follows international law,” she said.

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