Duterte hits China again over ‘nasty’ radio warnings
For the second time in a week, President Rodrigo Duterte rebuked China for its “nasty” warnings against Philippine planes flying near Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, including those claimed by Manila.
The President was referring to the Chinese Navy’s menacing radio messages to Philippine military pilots.
“You know very well that we will not attack anybody there and we are a claimant of the group of islands,” he said in a speech on Friday night in Davao City.
“I told you we are not prepared to go to war with you, so why do you have to say those nasty words? There’s no need for that. We are your friend,” he added.
A BBC report recorded the Chinese warnings to military aircraft from both the United States and the Philippines flying over the artificial islands that had been transformed by China into fortified outposts in the strategic waterway.
“Philippine military aircraft! I’m warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!” part of the radio message said.
On Tuesday, the President said it was wrong for Beijing to claim the airspace above the artificial islands and surrounding waters and for the Chinese to tell others to leave those areas to avoid possible clashes.
The President said he hoped China would “temper” its behavior and stop restricting movements that could lead to a confrontation, possibly with treaty ally, the United States.
“You cannot create an island, it’s man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours. That is wrong because those waters are what we consider international sea. And the right of innocent passage is guaranteed,” he said.
“So I hope that China would temper at least its behavior. I do not want to quarrel with China,” he added.
In response to his remarks, Beijing on Thursday rebuffed the President, saying it had the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands.
Beijing asserts right
In a statement sent to Reuters, China’s foreign ministry said the Spratly Islands were China’s inherent territory and that China respected the right to freedom of navigation and overflight that all countries enjoyed in the South China Sea under international law.
“But China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands, and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” it said.
In his speech on Friday, the President indicated he felt slighted by the Chinese warnings “just because we are friends.”
The President has smoothened ties with China that were strained after Manila filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration challenging Beijing’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.
The court decided in July 2016 in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China’s expansive claims over the waters, but Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.
Ex-DFA chief lauds Du30
The President was commended for his recent rebuke of China’s actions and won support from former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Philippine contingent that won the case at the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
Del Rosario, however, said the administration should take further steps to uphold the rule of law in the maritime dispute with China.
“We can still change the path we ought to take and lead it toward achieving a global order where ‘right is might,’” he said at a forum on Friday.
“The Filipinos have the moral high ground. The Filipinos have the law on their side. We are in the right. Let us therefore speak with one voice — that adherence to the rule of law is the only way forward,” he said. —With a report from Jerome Aning
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