07/12/2018, 16.54
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The appearance in Manila of enigmatic 'Philippines colony of China’ banners causes a stir

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the action. The opposition is accused of trying to discredit the government's conciliatory approach to China in the South China Sea dispute. Two years ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Beijing had no title to the disputed waters.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On the second anniversary of the Philippines’ victory over China in a landmark arbitration case, banners appeared this morning on some bridges in the Filipino capital (pictured), saying, “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”.

As one might have expected, they caused a sensation across the country. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the enigmatic action. City authorities quickly took steps to remove some of the banners, written in English and Chinese, found in at least five places in the city.

Two years ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a non-binding ruling that said that China had no title over the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

According to the court, established in 1899 to resolve disputes between member states, China also breached the Philippines' sovereign rights by blocking its fishermen and building artificial islands in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Beijing refused to appear before the court and has not complied with its decision.

Meanwhile, the banners have caused a storm on social media in the Philippines. "NOT FUNNY", former solicitor general and chief lawyer for the Philippine case, Florin Hilbay, wrote on his social media accounts.

Some users accused the political opposition of making the banners to discredit the government's warming ties with China.

In fact, current Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power just two weeks after the court ruling, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to Beijing, getting loans, trade and investments.

The president often praises his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and caused a stir in February when he jokingly offered him the Philippines as a new province.

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, called the banners "absurd" and said it was likely the government's political enemies were behind them.

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