MALACAÑANG remains optimistic that the Chinese vessels at the West Philippine Sea would eventually leave the country’s sovereign maritime territory as it denied reports that Beijing ignored President Rodrigo Duterte over calls for China to withdraw from the West Philippine Sea.
In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque categorically labeled such reports as fake news adding the fact that Chinese vessels are exiting the area as proof that the President was not ignored at all.
Hundreds of Chinese ships, believed to be manned by militia, have been swarming the West Philippine Sea, since March 7. These ships, according to the Department of National Defense, are well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Roque said that at least 201 of these ships have already left the area, after Duterte’s dialogue with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, attributing the development to “the message of the President and the warm relations that we enjoy with China.”
“Hindi po totoo na in-ignore ang ating Presidente. Doon sa natitirang kaunti, we are still hoping aalis sila,” added the official.
Duterte, who has been at the receiving end of nasty remarks over the continued aggression of China at the West Philippine Sea, earlier told the public not to worry much about China, citing “indebtedness.”
China has stood firm in rejecting a 2016 ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague that junked its “historical” claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
Interestingly, Duterte said that while we “owe so much from China” which donated low-efficacy COVID-19 vaccines, territorial waters “cannot be bargained.”
Duterte forged friendlier relations with China upon assuming power in 2016, temporarily setting aside the arbitral award in favor of economic aid and investments.
About $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes the South China Sea each year. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
The United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are among countries voicing concern over China’s recent incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying it threatens peace and stability in the region.