Philippines: Duterte tells China he won't withdraw ships
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Rodrigo Durterte has issued the blanket ban amid the ongoing maritime tensions between Beijing and Manila. The Philippines’s coastguard has been facing off against Chinese military and fishing vessels that have violated the countries exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. President Duterte is under pressure from Filipino nationalists for his soft stance so far in the face of China’s aggressive moves.
The President of the Philippines said: “This is my order now to the Cabinet, and to all and sundry talking for the government, to refrain from discussing the West Philippine Sea with anybody.
“If we talk, we talk, but just among us.”
He later released a statement setting out the Philippines’s willingness to “defend our nation’s interest.”
Mr Duterte said: “Our agencies have been directed to do what they must and should to protect and defend our nation’s interest.”
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The moves comes days after Mr Duterte warned China that ships of the Philippine navy would not retreat from the dispute waters.
He said: “We have a stand here and I want to state it here and now again that our ships there, we will not move an inch backward.”
“I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble. I respect your position, and you respect mine. But we will not go to war.
“I will not withdraw. Even if you kill me. Our friendship will end here.”
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The Chinese Communist Party lays claims to the whole of the South China Sea and the Chinese Military has constructed island bases equipped with air defence batteries and airstrips.
Some of these manmade islands have been built within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.
China’s attempts to undermine Filipino maritime sovereignty has placed Mr Duterte under pressure from the country’s nationalists who would like to see more hardline opposition offered to counter Beijing.
Mr Duterte has often stopped short of openly criticising Xi Jinping and has instead pursued a more diplomatic approach in hopes of securing lucrative Chinese investment.
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Earlier this month the Filipino foreign minister issues an expletive-laced message on Twitter calling for China to withdraw ships from the EEZ.
He wrote: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see, get the **** out!”.
“What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You.
“You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province.”
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