China confronted by EU for 'disturbing peace in South China Sea'
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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). It is the latest exchange in a war of words with Beijing over its activities in the South China Sea. He wrote on his personal Twitter account: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see, get the **** out!”.
He added: “What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You. You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province.”
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 each year. In 2016, an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled 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.”
Officials in Manila 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 China 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.
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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.
While the Philippine leader still considers China “a good friend”, he said last week: “There are things that are not really subject to a compromise.”
The Philippines will continue maritime exercises in the disputed waters despite a call by China to stop actions that it said could escalate disputes.
The Filipino coastguard and fisheries bureau started maritime exercises last month, having boosted its presence in the area to counter the “threatening” presence of Chinese boats.
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“The conduct of maritime patrol in the WPS (West Philippine Sea) and Kalayaan Island Group by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement, using the local name for the South China Sea.
“The government will not waver in its position,” he said.
The lingering presence of hundreds of Chinese boats in the Philippines’ EEZ has revived tensions between the countries, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendship with Beijing.
Lorenzana said his comments echoed the stance of Duterte on the issue, citing the latter’s “very firm and straightforward” orders for the Philippine military to “defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas”.
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