Foreign Affairs Secretary: Chinese vessels in South China Sea 'do not mean anything'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday the presence of Chinese ships alone in the South China Sea does not mean anything.

In an interview with reporters, Cayetano did not confirm nor deny Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano's claim that China deployed military and fishing vessels one to three nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island since August 12.

"We will tell you if it's a cause for diplomatic or a military alarm," Cayetano said. "The presence of ships alone does not mean anything."

Read more: Alejano: Chinese vessels seen near Pag-asa islands

Cayetano, however, assured the public that the situation in the South China Sea remains stable.

"There is no situation there that is a cause of lowering of mutual trust between all of the claimants at this point in time," he said.

He added that communication between the Philippine and Chinese government is continuous, despite not being able to divulge details on the presence of ships.

"There are reasons for certain presence of certain vessels but the situation in the area is very stable," he said.

Asked about Alejano's challenge for the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest against China for the allegedly recent development, Cayetano answered peace, stability, and dialogue is the Philippines' new strategy.

"Nagrereklamo parin tayo [We are still protesting], it's just that we don't announce it and we don't tell you how we do it. we will tell you if nothing is happening," he said.

Meanwhile Philippine Coast Guard Officer-In-Charge Commodore Joel Garcia said they have yet to verify Alejano's claim that a BFAR vessel was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from going near the sandbars located west of Pag-asa island, around two to seven nautical miles away.

"We are watching our seas, our maritime jurisdiction through the national coast guard center and to the action center. As what the Secretary mentioned, if it does not affect our sovereignty, specifically in area where we have sovereign rights, I don't think ships such as Chinese vessels are violating international law," Garcia said.