Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the statement in a text message to reporters, a day after eight senators urged the government to formally protest China’s construction activities and military installations.
Roque said the protest covered all incidents previously mentioned by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. He did not provide other details.
On Wednesday, Cayetano told a congressional hearing the Philippines had protested the incident and resolved the matter “quietly,” but declined to disclose details.
China claims most of the resources-rich sea through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes annually, and in recent years has reclaimed reefs and shoals including some claimed by Manila. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea.
China this month deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands off the Philippine coast and flew nuclear-capable bombers to a base in another disputed part of the sea.
Duterte has pointedly said he would not go to war against Beijing and hailed improving relations that led to more Chinese trade and investment.
On Wednesday, eight senators from both the majority and minority blocs signed Senate Resolution 761, urging the DFA to file diplomatic protest against China for its recent militarization efforts in the West Philippine Sea.
Two weeks ago, Roque bared that the Philippine government exercised its bilateral mechanism with China to confront the country over its militarization in the contested waters.
“A paper protest is not the only thing that happened. There was an open, frank, frontal discussion on this issue. But we cannot know what the agreements were, what the parties said. That’s part of diplomatic negotiations and communications,” Roque said in a press briefing on May 17.
“[What happened] was stronger than a protest. [Cayetano and his men] really bared what they want to say, that we are concerned [over their militarization in the area],” Roque added.
China’s claims on the disputed waters were invalidated by a United Nations-backed tribunal in July 2016, for lack of legal and historical basis. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague also junked China’s “nine-dash-line” map covering practically the entire South China Sea.
It concluded that Panganiban Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are “submerged at high tide, form part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”
China has beefed up construction and reclamation activities in the disputed islands since 2013. / BY RALPH VILLANUEVA / ON WITH AFP
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