Duterte hopes Beijing can 'temper' warnings in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged China to "temper" its frequent warnings to planes and ships passing over or through the South China Sea.

In a rare statement critical of China, Duterte said on Tuesday, August 14, that Beijing must respect the right of innocent passage for vessels passing in areas beyond national airspace. 

"You cannot create an island and you say that the air above the artificial island is your own. That is wrong. The right to innocent passage is guaranteed," said Duterte to an audience with diplomats, including United States Ambassador Sung Kim.

"I hope that China would temper its – at least its behavior. I do not want to quarrel with China. But at this time, because you will create – America instead of avoiding – 'get out, get out,' China would say 'we go in, we go in.' And 'get out and get out,' and one of these days, a hot head commander there would just press a trigger," said Duterte.

He asserted that ships "[do] not need any permission to sail through the open seas."

The Philippine leader's remarks come after a CNN report that a US Navy plane was asked by Chinese forces 6 times to "leave immediately and keep out" as it flew over the South China Sea.

The Chinese claimed the plane was passing through its national territory, even if an international tribunal ruled that its 9-dash line laying claim to the South China Sea is invalid.

A report by the Associated Press also revealed that Philippine military aircraft have been asked 46 times by Chinese forces to "leave immediately" as they flew over the Spratlys, a group of islands in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.