DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said China violates with impunity the Declaration on the Code (DOC) of Parties in South China Sea of 2002 by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“Well, we’ve been adhering to the [Code of] Conduct; we’ve been following the DOC [and] we did not violate it. They [China] were the ones violating it and that’s why we had filed several protests already,” Gazmin said in an interview.
The Philippines has brought the territorial dispute for arbitration before the International Court of Justice of the United Nations, a move that China protested.
Gazmin held a bilateral dialogue on Wednesday with Chinese Ambassador to Manila Ma Ke Qing and they talked about the situation in Ayungin Reef.
Recently, Chinese frigates, maritime surveillance ships and fishing boats intruded into Ayungin and conducted illegal fishing activities, including the harvesting of corals.
During the dialogue, Ma said China is finding ways of “cooperation” and “exchanges” to ease tension in the Spratly Islands.
Gazmin said Ma told him that the Chinese forces were in Ayungin to “monitor” the activities of Philippine forces, particularly the possible construction of additional structures in the area.
Ayungin is one of the three reefs and seven islets that compose the municipality of the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan. It is currently led by re-elected Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon.
The reef is guarded by Marines.
Meanwhile, Gazmin said he will have bilateral talks with representatives from the United States, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia during the conference of defense ministers that would be held in Singapore.
“We will have time for bilateral talks with these countries. Japan’s [defense minister] is set to come here for our bilateral meeting. We had bilateral talks with China during the Shangri-La Dialogue. Anyway, we’ve already had a dialogue with China [through its ambassador] yesterday [Wednesday],” Gazmin said, adding he had also talked with the representative of Brunei Darussalam.
The so-called Shangri-La Dialogue is a venue where security officials meet and interact with each other regarding issues of security concerns in the international community.
Gazmin said he is not sure if the territorial dispute with China and other nations such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Burnei, as well as Taiwan, will be raised during the conference.
“If the issue will pop up then we will discuss it,” he said.