Teodoro Locsin orders the Chinese to withdraw their ships from Manila's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. The Chinese attitude pushes the Philippines to turn to the US. Duterte cornered, forced by public opinion to clash with his Beijing partners.
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see... O... GET THE F*** OUT," reads the very harsh tweet - the capitalisation is the owners - with which Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin yesterday "cursed" against the Chinese, who refuse to withdraw their fishing boats and other vessels from the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Indonesia, and with the support of the United States, the Philippines is opposing China's territorial claims in the region. Manila's position is based on the ruling of The Hague International Court of Arbitration, which in 2016 defined Chinese claims on nearly 90% of the South China Sea as "baseless".
Beijing has occupied and militarized numerous coral atolls and sandy banks in the region. Chinese warships and coast guard ships, along with maritime militia vessels, frequently operate in waters claimed by other states.
Locsin’s verbal attack comes after his department accused the Chinese coast guard of carrying out "aggressive operations" against Filipino ships patrolling the waters around Scarborough Shoal. The sandbank has been occupied by China since 2012 but is claimed by Manila.
According to the Philippine Ministry of Defense, since March about 200 boats of the Beijing maritime militia have also been stationed near Whitsun Reef, a coral reef part of the Spratly Islands that Manila considers under its sovereignty.
In a warning to the Chinese government, Locsin said that China is like " an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend": a clear reference to the US. The Filipino minister added that now the "polite" diplomatic language is useless with Beijing.
The Chinese naval presence in the waters claimed by Manila is putting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in difficulty, forced to take a tough stance towards China, despite the fact that he considers the Chinese giant an indispensable trading partner. Spurred on by public opinion and the government, Duterte said last week that the Philippines will continue to patrol the South China Sea, and that sovereignty over contested waters "is non-negotiable".