MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top diplomat has told the country’s future military leaders that they must stand their ground in any territorial disputes with China.
The comments from Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, which were released Saturday, come as disputes over the South China Sea have escalated recently. China has enraged several neighbors with a map printed in its newly revised passports that show it staking its claim on the entire South China Sea.
A statement published Saturday on the foreign ministry’s website quoted del Rosario as telling Philippine Military Academy cadets: “What is ours is ours and we should stand up to protect what is ours.”
It said del Rosario gave the lecture Friday on the challenges the country faces in defending its claims to areas in the South China Sea.
The academy supplies the officer corps of the armed forces.
The Philippines, a close ally of the United States, has poorly equipped forces that are no match to China’s military. A 45-year-old U.S. Coast Guard cutter acquired last year has become the navy’s flagship.
The Philippines claims some areas in the Spratly Island chain to which China has staked ancient ownership. The countries also claim the Scarborough Shoal west of the main Philippine island of Luzon where Chinese and Filipino ships were locked in a tense standoff early this year after the Philippine navy accosted Chinese fishermen there.
In the latest incident, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have criticized China for putting a map in its new passports that show all of the disputed areas as belonging to China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday the passport’s design was not directed at any particular country.
The United States has said it takes no sides in the territorial disputes but that it considers ensuring safe maritime traffic in the waters to be in its national interest.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam are set to meet Dec. 12 to discuss claims in the South China Sea and the role of China.