Palace: AFP prepared to defend country

Posted at 05/16/14 7:09 PM

MANILA - Malacanang is sticking to diplomacy in dealing with China but assured the public on Friday that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is prepared to defend the country.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said government is still sticking to diplomacy despite the activities of China on the Mabini Reef.

He said Manila has pointed out that these activities violate the non-binding Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday said the reclamation of Mabini Reef by China has been made part of the arbitration case that Manila filed against Beijing before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in March.

Tensions between China and two other countries -- Vietnam and the Philippines - have been rising in the disputed waters.

When sought for comment on a Chinese newspaper editorial that called for non-peaceful means to resolve China's disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines, Coloma said the Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy.

Asked how government is preparing for an attack, Coloma said it is better to not to talk about preparations but he gave assurances that the military is prepared to defend the country.

"The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn't mean China can't resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines," said the state-owned Global Times tabloid, which has a strong pro-Beijing slant in stories.

"Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China's sincerely peaceful intentions," it added.

China's foreign ministry has denounced both Manila and Hanoi and accused Vietnam's leaders on Thursday of "indulgence and connivance" with anti-China demonstrators for failing to rein in the protests.

China's official Xinhua news agency, meanwhile, wrote in a Friday commentary that Hanoi "bears unshirkable responsibility for the violent attacks against Chinese companies and nationals, and must take all necessary and effective measures to ensure the safety of foreign companies and nationals in Vietnam."

Xinhua appeared to take a more measured tone towards the confrontation than the Global Times, however, noting that "violence and provocation should never be the answer to disputes between countries, and must be stopped immediately."