Amid escalating feud between Manila and Beijing, Philippines defence ministry on April 28 said that China has no business telling his country what it can or cannot do with its waters. While speaking to reporters, Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected China’s opposition to its ongoing coastguard exercises and said that Beijing had “no authority” or legal basis to prevent Manila from conducting exercises in the South China Sea because “their claims… have no basis”.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes each year. The Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau, on the other hand, started maritime exercises on Saturday inside the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), following an announcement of a boosting of its presence to counter the “threatening” presence of Chinese boat. Responding to the exercises, China’s foreign ministry said that the Philippines should “stop” actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.
The Philippines defence ministry, however, responded by saying: “China has no business telling the Philippines what it can and cannot do”.
In a late-night televised address on Wednesday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte also said that he would not compromise on his country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea. Duterte called China a “good friend” and said that he doesn’t want trouble with them, “especially a war”. He further added, “But there are things that are not really subject to a compromise ... I hope they will understand but I have the interest of my country also to protect”.
Meanwhile, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei also lay claim to parts of the sea, which has vast oil and gas potential. However, tensions in recent years have escalated as Chinese incursions in the South China Sea have massively increased. Earlier this month, the US Navy strike group also entered the disputed waters after the president of the Philippines, a US ally, voiced concern about the Chinese vessels massing in Manila’s 320km exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines has also discovered “illegally built structures” on features in the Union Banks which is a series of reefs in the South China Sea. The reef is actually a part of the Spratly Islands archipelago and is claimed by both the Philippines and China. The Philippines claims that it falls inside the country’s exclusive economic zone and even United Nations (UN) ruled in 2016 that China’s claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. however, China has refused to adhere to the recognition. China has been previously also accused of using its vast fishing fleet to help assert its territorial claims throughout the 1.3 million square miles of the disputed waters.