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‘Filipino pilots will die for our sovereignty’, Presidential Spokesman said

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In another and most recent radio warning from the Chinese Navy against Filipino military aircraft from conducting aerial patrols over the South China Sea, Malacañang won’t stop the Philippines from doing that.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque stressed that Filipino pilots are willing to die to assert the country’s sovereignty over the Spratly Islands. Roque said,“They will not stop us. We will continue with our flights. We will assert our sovereignty. If need be, Filipino pilots will die for our sovereignty.”

The  Chinese Navy’s radio message was heard as saying, “Philippine military aircraft! I’m warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!”

There was also a radio warning which was reportedly issued by the Chinese Navy as a United States Navy plane was conducting a surveillance flight over the Spratly Islands on Friday. The China’s warning on Filipino military aircraft appeared to be harsher compared to the ones issued to American aircraft: “Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

The US replied to the warning by saying: “This is United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state and exercising these rights is guaranteed by international law. I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

Roque said they do not have any information yet on the incident but an investigation would be conducted. He went on, “If the information was true, the good news is ‘di naman nagpatakot ang ating mga piloto. Tinakot sila, hindi sila nagpatakot. Tinuloy pa rin nila ang lipad nila dahil meron tayong teritoryo doon.”

The Philippine pilots continued their flights. They disregarded that. That means that we are upholding our title. That we are asserting our sovereignty because we conducted the overflight over our islands,” Roque said.

He added that he would even ask the Filipino pilots if he cursed at the radio warning. Tatanungin ko po kung totoo yan, at kung totoo yan, tatanungin ko yung piloto kung minura niya, the Presidential Spokesperson said.“Kasi tinakot siya eh, eh alam mo naman mga Pilipino, di naman tayo madali matakot dahil matagal na tayong takot,” he also said.

It was BBC that was able to pick up the radio warning of the Chinese to the Philippine military aircraft supposedly flying nearby. It noted the difference in tone with the ones issued to the US.

“We overhear China warning a Philippine aircraft. This time, they are not as nearly as polite,” BBC’s Rupert Wingfield- Hayes said in his report.

Meanwhile, the Philippine defense and military officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But for Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy on China, said the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest over the incident.

He further said, “The ruling on a challenge brought by the Philippines, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s sweeping claim in July 2016.But the Duterte government set aside the ruling in exchange for economic opportunities and friendly ties with China.”

China maintains that the facilities on its man-made islands in the Spratlys are primarily for civilian purposes and they have “indisputable sovereignty” over the area.

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