MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision in ordering the military to occupy and protect at least nine islets in the West Philippine Sea is an act of performing his mandate with respect to Philippine territory.
DFA Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the order was purely focus on islets, which are ours and not part of the contested one.
“The aim is to improve the living conditions, safety and personal security of Filipinos in those areas,” Jose said in a text message.
“At the same time, we remain committed to improving our relations with China and other partners in the region,” he added.
He said the President tried to be friends with everybody “but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control.”
The Philippines controls nine islets in the disputed Spratlys region, the largest of which is Pag-asa, an area under Palawan’s fifth class town of Kalayaan.
Other Philippine-occupied islets and land features in Spratlys are Ayungin Shoal, Lawak Island, Parola Island, Patag Island, Kota Island, Rizal Reef, Likas Island and Panata Island. SAMMY MARTIN/PNA-northboundasia.com