MANILA The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is taking "seriously" the reported deployment of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to three outposts in the disputed West Philippine Sea and is verifying the information, Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.
"We're taking it seriously. We're verifying the information. We're closely coordinating with Secretary of National Defense and National Security Adviser and NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) now," Cayetano told reporters during a DFA event in Pasay City.
Reports cited United States intelligence assessments that the missiles were deployed to (Kagitingan) Fiery Cross Reef, (Zamora) Subi Reef and (Panganiban) Mischief Reef within the past 30 days.
Cayetano said the country's interest in the disputed seas remains clear.
"We have territorial and sovereignty rights claims. We will take all diplomatic action, every and all diplomatic action to protect our interest," Cayetano said.
He explained that the country's moves on the issue come in "phases", with one part anchored on the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
Since there are now agreements and a "relative stability on the uninhabited" features, Cayetano said they expect to move towards the issue of the inhabited features.
"The problems cannot be resolved just by the Philippines and China because this is what the president was saying, that it's not directed against us, but of course our allies and defense were saying that when you have missiles there, it can affect anyone," he pointed out.
The US, which has been vocal about its opposition to China's installation of military facilities in the region, expressed fresh concerns over the reported developments in the area.
Our policy in the South China Sea remains the same. We're very concerned about any activity to recreate and militarize features. We stand by our commitment to seeing a peaceful resolution of disputes by all claimant nations," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Dr. Joseph Felter said at a teleconference on Friday.
Meanwhile, on exercising its freedom of navigation, Felter said the US will continue to fly, sail, and operate in areas that international law allows.
He likewise affirmed that the military-to-military ties of the two nations remain strong, and they are committed to its Mutual Defense Treaty with Manila. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency