Duterte reacts to China blocking Philippines ships — Analysis

The Philippines Coast Guard confronted Philippine vessels in South China Sea. President Duterte condemned the incident and said it was a poor sign of the relations between the two countries.

Speaking on Monday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte responded to last week’s flare-up in which Philippines boats were fired upon by Chinese Coast Guard water cannons at the Second Thomas Shoal (known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines). The vessels were delivering supplies to marines stationed on the atoll; Beijing, which claims the islands, said the boats hadn’t requested permission to enter. 

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“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments,”Duterte addressed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China. 

“This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership,”The outspoken leader also added. 

The current president will be leaving office in 2022. He has tried to strengthen relations with Chinese neighbours during his term. However, Beijing’s claims over vast swathes of the South China Sea, including islands and atolls just off the Philippines, have continually challenged diplomatic ties. Beijing’s assertiveness has also engendered increasing anti-China sentiment among Filipinos. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Manila earlier this year to stop military drills near Thitu Island, Scarborough Shoal and other areas. It accused the Philippines of being a terrorist nation. “complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”

The Second Thomas Shoal sits just 105 nautical miles (195km) off the Philippines province of Palawan and within the nation’s exclusive economic zone. The atoll is also within China’s ‘nine dash line’ – a unilaterally defined territorial claim which asserts Chinese ownership over 90% of the South China Sea. 

Beijing rejected the 2016 decision of The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, which dismissed its claims in South China Sea. This ruling was based upon historical usage. About 650 nautical mile (1,200 km) away is the Second Thomas Shoal in southern China’s province of Hainan.

The Asian summit will be hosted by Xi Jinping (Chinese President). He assured his colleagues that Beijing would host the event. “never seek hegemony, and certainly not bully the small.” 

Numerous claims are being made from China, Brunei and the Philippines to claim the South China Sea’s potentially valuable and strategic waterways. 

The US warned China Friday that it would attack Philippine public vessels. This was in response to its obligations under the treaty.

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