In unexpected reaction, President Rodrigo Duterte criticized China for its “nasty” warnings against Philippine planes flying near the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea where China built its artificial islands.
The Chinese Navy’s boorish radio messages to Philippine military pilots irked the President. He said in a speech on Friday night in Davao City during the launching of Hugpong Ng Pagbabago, “You know very well that we will not attack anybody there and we are a claimant of the group of islands. 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.”
In a report by BBC, it 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.
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Last 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. Duterte hopes that China would “temper” its behavior and stop harassing our pilots and restricting our movements that could lead to a confrontation.
“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.
Duterte added, “I do not want to quarrel with China.”
Beijing on the other hand declined the President last Thursday, saying it had the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands. China said, “It 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”.
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 under the Aquino administration.