MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday again called out China after its troops issued “nasty” words against Filipino pilots flying over the disputed South China Sea.
“You know very well that we will not attack… We’re not prepared to go to war with you so why do you have to say those nasty words?” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.
Duterte again stressed that China cannot just build artificial islands in the South China Sea and claim sovereignty over the area.
The President made this rare criticism of China after a BBC report showed the Chinese shooing away a Philippine plane flying over the Spratlys archipelago.
“Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!” a voice said.
The CNN and BBC, which were given last week a rare chance to board a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane and fly over the Spratlys, also witnessed how the Chinese told the US plane to leave the area, albeit in a calmer manner.
“US military aircraft, this is China. Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,” a voice said.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court in 2016 which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.
His predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, initiated the case against China but the ruling was handed down less than a month after the incumbent assumed power.
Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have drawn criticism for Manila’s policy towards China. The top diplomat has, however, said the Philippines has been quietly taking diplomatic actions against Chinese incursions in the disputed waters.