File photo of Julian Felipe with surrounding Chinese vessels taken in March 2021. (Palawan News file photo)

The dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is “solvable,” with the first step being face-to-face diplomacy to defuse the escalating crisis in the sea, senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano said.

He said this after reports that on April 4, about 100 Chinese ships were observed around Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the WPS, nearly a year after over 200 were also spotted in the same region.

“The problem is solvable but we have to be committed to it,” Cayetano said in an interview with reporters on June 11, 2022.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) published a statement on June 9, 2022, after filing a formal complaint against China.

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“The lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels is not only illegal but is also a source of instability in the region,” the Department said.

Cayetano, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018, said there is always a peaceful way to resolve such issues.

“I’m a believer sa diplomacy. Ako’y naniniwala hindi dahas, hindi war, at hindi rin po force ang magso-solve ng problema natin sa West Philippine Sea kundi diplomacy,” he said.

The Senator-elect encouraged the incoming administration to defuse the situation by carrying out face-to-face diplomacy with President Xi Jinping right away.

“Ang personal recommendation ko is as soon as possible magkaroon ng one-on-one meeting ang President-elect Marcos at saka si President Xi Jin Ping,” Cayetano said.

“It’s not a one-dimensional problem. But kung president to president ang mag-uusap especially during this time, I don’t think totally masosolve ang problema pero tingin ko made-defuse y’ung situation and magkakaroon tayo ng framework how to proceed from here,” he continued.

Cayetano said diplomacy works better than “megaphone or microphone diplomacy” where public statements are issued instead of actual conversations behind closed doors.

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