Chinese ambassador: Banners ‘vicious attack’
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Tuesday described as a “vicious attack” on now warm relations between the Philippines and China the emergence of banners declaring the Philippines a Chinese province, which were apparently a take on a joke made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The Philippines has never been a part of China,” Zhao said at the sidelines of groundbreaking rites for two bridges being funded by the Chinese government. “Not now, or ever.”
Last week, a number of banners bearing the words “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China” were seen hanging from several footbridges along major thoroughfares in the capital.
The stunt came on the eve of the second anniversary of the Philippines’ arbitral victory over China on the West Philippine Sea dispute.
Enemies of government
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier assailed the “gimmick,” which he said was perpetrated by “enemies of the government.”
The banners appeared to be a take on a joke made by the President on Feb. 19 during the anniversary of Chinese Business Club.
“If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian,” he said at the gathering.
“Province of Philippines, Republic of China,” the President said to applause and laughter from his mostly Chinese-Filipino audience.
Zhao said while China did not take offense on the banners, he admitted it was “bad for the bilateral relations” between China and the Philippines.
It was also an affront to the Duterte administration’s foreign policy, he said.
The President has repeatedly praised China for helping without interfering in Philippine internal affairs unlike the United States, a traditional Philippine ally.
On Tuesday, the President was with Zhao for groundbreaking rites for two bridges donated by the Chinese government—Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge.
Zhao said his government was building the bridges “for free.”
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