AFP chief careful, quiet on West PH Sea
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr defended the military's silence over recent Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"All statements pertaining to the West Philippine Sea is relegated to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). I'm very sorry, I cannot make a statement on that," Galvez told defense reporters on Monday, May 14, in his first interview since he assumed his post.
A reporter pressed: "What do you say to criticisms that there is a sellout of our territory to China?" Galvez replied: "As I have said, I am not in authority to discuss that because it is relegated to the DFA and our SND (Secretary of National Defense)."
Doing things quietly
The military is doing things quietly, Galvez said. "Rest assured, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is doing its best to really assure [our people] that our territory are being protected," Galvez said.
The military had been quiet over China's reported installation of missiles and jammers on Mischief Reef – a maritime feature inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines which the neighboring superpower occupied in 1994 and started reclaiming in 2013.
The country's sovereign rights claim – exclusive power to develop resources – over Mischief Reef was upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016. (READ: Text of Hague court ruling affirming PH rights over Mischief Reef)
China-friendly President Rodrigo Duterte is being hit for his defeatist stance in handling the country's maritime conflict with Beijing. (READ: Duterte: 'I need China')
Critics are looking up to the military to assert the country's claims, but to no avail. "What you're asking me is some operational matters already and I cannot discuss it here. The issue is very sensitive. I'm very sorry," Galvez told reporters.
Galvez said the military is not neglecting maritime features occupied by the country in the West Philippine Sea.
Galvez didn't comment on Chinese activities on maritime features like Mischief Reef, which are claimed by the Philippines but occupied by China. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com
Inside Track is Rappler's intelligencer on people, events, places and everything of public interest. It's a take-off from Newsbreak's Inside Track section. Contributions are most welcome. Just send bits of information to email@example.com.