Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said that the Philippines would not join navies of other countries, like the United States, in maritime drills in the South China Sea for fear of raising tension in the area, reported Philippine media Inquirer.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has a standing order to us, to me, that we should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea, except our national waters, the 12 mile distance from our shores,” the defense chief said at an online press briefing.
“We cannot exercise with them in the South China Sea,” said Lorenzana.
“If one country’s action is considered as belligerent, another tension will normally rise, so I hope that all the parties in this exercise will have, will work on their actions there, to exercise prudence and carefulness so that there will be no miscalculations that could further increase the tension,” he said.
The U.S. military has been making increasing excursions into the South China Sea with warplanes and warships. Last month, U.S., Australia and Japan conducted joint drills in the region.
Duterte said on July 27 in his annual State of the Nation Address that the Philippines would continue upholding an independent foreign policy, would not pick sides between China and the United States, would not agree to allow U.S. troops back to military bases in the country, and would not confront China over the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, "We appreciate President Duterte's remarks and stand ready to properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region."
China's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. As has been proven, properly handling this issue is in the interest of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability, Wang said.