DFA: PH engaged in 85 'diplomatic actions' on sea row under Duterte's term

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The Department of Foreign Affairs did not specify what incidents the Philippines' diplomatic actions covered.

Metro Manila (CNN Philipines, June 5) — The Philippines conducted 85 diplomatic actions on the South China Sea dispute since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

However, the DFA did not specify what incidents the actions covered, as well as if all these actions were directed to China.

DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella in a statement said 35 of the 85 actions were undertaken by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.  Cayetano took over the DFA post after Perfecto Yasay's appointment was rejected last year by the Commission on Approintments due to questions about his citizenship.

READ MORE:  Duterte gov't filed 'dozens' of protests vs. China's activities in South China Sea, officials say

"We asserted our rights numerous times in bilateral consultations, in face to face meetings and in written documents," Abella said.

Abella added the DFA supports Cayetano and Duterte's recent statements on fighting for the country's sovereign and territorial rights in the contested waters.

China has refused to observe the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which largely ruled in favor of the Philippines' maritime rights and rejected China's position that it has historic rights over virtually the entire South China Sea. Last month, several Chinese bomber planes conducted landing and take-off exercises on China's outposts in the South China Sea.

"It is important to understand that in diplomatic engagement, it is the content that matters, in whatever form it is conveyed," he said.

The DFA has not disclosed the details of these protests despite calls from critics and lawmakers for them to be made known to the public to allay concerns.

"While some critics may nitpick, it is important that our gains are not only conserved but that our national interest thrives, as a careful accounting will show," the statement added.

Increasing Chinese activity in the waters has prompted the United States to sail two warships in the area. Amid verbal tensions between Washington and Beijing, Duterte has opted not to take sides, in line with warmer ties with China.