MANILA: The Philippine foreign minister on Monday said in an expletive-laced message on Twitter that China’s vessels get out of disputed waters, marking the latest exchange in a war of words with Beijing over its activities in the South China Sea.
The comments by Teodoro Locsin, known for making blunt remarks at times, follow Manila’s protests for what it calls the “illegal” presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the Philippines 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chinese officials have previously said the vessels at the disputed Whitsun Reef were fishing boats taking refuge from rough seas.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year. In 2016, an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that the claim, which Beijing bases on its old maps, was inconsistent with international law.
In a statement on Monday, the Philippine foreign ministry accused China’s coast guard of “shadowing, blocking, dangerous manoeuvres, and radio challenges of the Philippine coast guard vessels”. Philippine officials believe the Chinese vessels are manned by militia. On Sunday, the Philippines vowed to continue maritime exercises in its EEZ in the South China Sea in response to a Chinese demand that it stop actions it said could escalate disputes.
As of April 26, the Philippines had filed 78 diplomatic protests to China since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, foreign ministry data shows.
“Our statements are stronger too because of the more brazen nature of the activities, the number, frequency and proximity of intrusions,” Marie Yvette Banzon-Abalos, executive director for strategic communications at the foreign ministry, said. Duterte for the most part has pursued warmer ties with China in exchange for Beijing’s promises of billions of dollars in investment, aid and loans.
“China remains our benefactor. Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said in a weekly national address.
“So, kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace and there is no reason for trouble,” Duterte said, addressing China.
Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021