Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Philippines vows to ‘stake a claim’ on South China Sea with military – ‘It will be bloody’

South China Sea: Philippines ‘keeping options open’ says expert

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Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, issued a warning the country will send naval ships to the disputed waters to defend its claim. It follows Chinese fishing vessels operating in Philippines-held territory and Beijing sending ships to inspect for oil.

Mr Duterte made the warning in a televised briefing on Monday, in which he accepted that sending ships to contest the South China Sea will likely lead to violence with Beijing.

He said: “If we go there to assert our jurisdiction, it will be bloody.”

The President then told reporters future disputes over marine resources would see the Philippines send “five coastguard ships, and they can chase… They can play with each other, and see who’s faster”.

The Philippines’ President also added he is “not so much interested now in fishing” after China sent fishing vessels with militia on board, but is more concerned about oil drilling.

Mr Duterte told reporters: “When we start to mine, when we start to get whatever it is in the bowels of the China Sea, our oil, by that time I will send my grey ships there to stake a claim.

“If they start drilling oil there, I will tell China, is that part of our agreement?

“If that is not part of our agreement, I will also drill oil there.

“If they get the oil, that would be time that we should act on it.”

After the president said “nothing will happen” if China sends its ships “because we are not in the possession of the sea”, Delfi Lorenzana, Philippine defence chief, interjected.

He told Mr Duterte during the meeting naval ships can patrol the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have deepened in recent weeks as Beijing sends more vessels into the disputed waters.

Beijing has said their vessels’ presence in the South China Sea is normal and legitimate.

The US, already at loggerheads with Beijing over its aggressive claims in the South China Sea, has reminded them of its treaty obligations to the Philippines.

Washington voiced concerns over Beijing’s “maritime militia” near Manilla-held waters.

But Mr Duterte on Monday said the US will not come to the Philippines’ aid if the conflict is “of our own making”.

It comes after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office announced a strike force of 25 Chinese fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft flew over the island to send a message to Taipei over its relationship with the US.

In a grim warning, spokesman Ma Xiaoguang declared: “The signal given by the military drills is that we are determined to stop Taiwan independence, and stop Taiwan from working with the US.

“We are doing it with action.

“We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures.”

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