Bangkok, May 4 (EFE).- The president of the Philippines called China his country’s “benefactor” shortly after the foreign ministry slammed what it described as “belligerent actions” by Chinese military ships against the Philippine Coast Guard in the South China Sea.
“Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful. As a matter of fact, we have many things to thank China for the help in the past (sic),” Rodrigo Duterte said during a Monday night speech, at a time his government is negotiating the monthly delivery of 4 million doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine.
Duterte’s statements came after the Philippine foreign ministry on Monday protested against the “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver, and radio challenges” by the Chinese Coast Guard of Philippine ships in the waters around Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo Masinloc), located about 198 kilometers (123 miles) west of the Philippine coast, on Apr. 24-25.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration of The Hague attributed the ownership of Scarborough Atoll and part of the Spratly archipelago to the Philippines, a ruling that China has refused to recognize.
The ministry also reported the “incessant, illegal, prolonged, and increasing” presence of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones in the South China Sea between Jan. 1 and Mar. 18.
“The Philippines calls on China to withdraw its government vessels (…) and respect Philippine sovereignty,” the ministry concluded.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei claim parts of the strategic South China Sea, which serves as a passage for 30 percent of the global trade and is home to 12 percent of the worldwide fish resources, apart from housing oil and gas reserves, although China claims sovereignty over almost the entire area. EFE