MANILA - Opposition lawmakers on Friday expressed concern over China's reported installation of new missiles on the Spratly islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Minority Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Filipinos should be alarmed by Beijing's militarization efforts and that the Philippines should strengthen its ties with other nations.
"We, as a nation, should be alarmed by China's militarization of the WPS (West Philippine Sea). However, [President Rodrigo] Duterte continues to invite China in by being its lapdog," he said.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
"Diplomatically, we should reassert our victory in the arbitral tribunal. We should also initiate a regional security summit to raise international awareness on the WPS situation," he added, in reference to the July 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the contested waters.
The CNBC on Wednesday reported that new Chinese missiles were allegedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef, which are all in the Spratly archipelago located in waters south of mainland China, between Vietnam and the Philippines.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday the Philippine government is still verifying the report.
Malacañang, meanwhile, expressed concern over the reported deployment of missiles but is confident that they are not directed at the Philippines given its renewed ties with China.
Lawmakers at the House of Representatives also expressed concern over China's latest militarization efforts.
"Ang punto natin dito, 'pag mayroon silang (China) ginawa, we should challenge that because maliwanag naman na 'yung security and defense relationship ay hiwalay sa economic relationship," Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said.
(Our point is that whenever China does something, we should challenge that because it is clear that the security and defense relationship is separate from the economic relationship.)
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said China's actions were "provoking an era of arms race and volatility in the Asia-Pacific region."
"This is very alarming, as it is highly condemnable. It is, in fact, more than militarizing the WPS. China is effectively also implementing a creeping invasion of the Philippines, unfortunately, without even a whimper of protest from the Philippine government," he said.
Zarate urged the Duterte administration to issue a diplomatic protest in response to China's reported actions.
ACT Teachers party-list Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro also chimed in on criticizing Beijing's militarization efforts.
"We strongly condemn the installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in the West Philippine Sea," Tinio said. "We demand immediate withdrawal of the missiles and the dismantling of Chinese bases in Philippine territories."
"President Duterte must not forsake the sovereignty of our country to compensate for infrastructure contracts that he has scored with China," Castro said.
-- with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News