Duterte tells China: 'You can't create islands and claim the sea'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte upped the ante with his unexpected word war with China on Friday, August 17.

"You cannot create islands there and claim the sea. That is not an island, artificial islands are not true, are prohibited in the middle sea. 'Yan nga ang rule diyan eh (That's the rule there)," he said during the Hugpong ng Pagbabago convention in Davao City.

With these remarks, Duterte appears not to be backing down from China after the Asian giant continued to assert its right to warn certain planes flying over the South China Sea. 

China had issued this statement after Duterte's call on Tuesday for Beijing to "temper" its warnings. The rare criticism from the Philippine leader drew a commendation from former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario.

Duterte, on Friday, said that as the Philippines' friend, China should not be issuing such "nasty" warning messages to Philippine vessels.

"Why do you have to say those nasty words? There's no need for that. We are your friend," said Duterte.

"Just because we are friends, huwag 'nyo na kaming (don't say to us), 'Pilipinos, go out there. That is your responsibility if anything will happen.' You know very well that we will not attack anybody there. And we are a claimant of the group of islands. I told you we are not prepared to go to war with you," he also said.

CNN and the Associated Press earlier reported how China radioed warnings against United States and Philippine planes flying over the South China Sea.

Former foreign secretary Del Rosario has called on Duterte to enforce the historic international court ruling that invalidated China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.

Recent surveys show that 73% of Filipinos  want the government to assert the Hague ruling, and that 4 out of 5 Filipinos reject government inaction against China's aggression in the South China Sea.

Analysts previously pointed out that Duterte's continued perceived policy of "giving in" to China could affect his so far high popularity ratings. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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