MANILA - The Philippines is not a province of China, “not now, not ever,” said Chinese envoy Zhao Jianhua Tuesday when asked to react to the controversial red banners spotted last week in pedestrian overpasses with the message “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.”
Zhao said the banners seemed to be a “vicious attack” on the ties between the Philippines and China and the “independent foreign policy” being pursued by President Rodrigo DUterte.
“I don’t think it’s offensive, but it is bad,” Zhao told reporters at the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony of one of two China-funded bridges in Manila.
Malacañang has said the banners could be the handiwork of government enemies.
Police have launched an investigation to identify the people behind the installation of the banners.
Under Duterte, the Philippines has warmed up to China despite the latter’s aggressive activities in the disputed South China Sea.
The President prefers dealing with China instead of the Philippines’ traditional ally, the United States, and has looked to the Asian giant for funding of various infrastructure and military programs.
Duterte even once joked making the Philippines a province of China.