MANILA, May 25 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III has maintained that the country has freedom of aviation over the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, despite last Wednesday’s incident when the Chinese Navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane as it flew over the contested waters.
“We will still fly the routes that we fly based on international law and the various conventions, agreements that have been entered into through various decades,” he said during an interview with members of the Malacañang Press Corps following the Brigada Eskwela and Oplan Balik Eskwela 2015 event, held at the Marikina Elementary School in Marikina City on Monday.
The President however pointed out that China has not declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area.
“Siguro, baka dapat hindi muna natin pag-isipan na tayo ang pag-iinitan ng isang bansa or another, dahil wala pa ring idini-declare namang ADIZ doon sa tinatahak ‘nung ating mga carriers, iyong mga normal na lumilipad dito sa mga rutang ito,” he explained.
President Aquino said that the country will nonetheless continue to exercise its rights over its exclusive economic zone.
“We have maritime awareness, we know what is happening, and we have a calculated response to all of these incidents that are happening. Bottom line is, it has to be clear, we will defend our rights to the best of our abilities,” he said.
According to reports, the Chinese Navy told the US aircraft to leave the area eight times as it flew over the artificial islands that China has been building in the disputed territory.
China claims sovereignty over most of the contested area but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims. (PNA)