(ANTIMEDIA) Manila — The Philippines has filed an official diplomatic protest against China, the country’s foreign minister revealed Monday, over its installation of military hardware on artificial islands in the South China Sea. While, on the surface, this may appear to be the first speed bump in the budding China-Philippines relationship, it’s actually further proof of President Rodrigo Duterte’s increasing willingness to work with China — diplomatically.
“I just want to ensure the Filipino people that when we take action at engaging China in this dispute, we do not want to take such aggressive, provocative action that will not solve the problem,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told CNN Philippines on Monday.
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The complaint, Reuters writes, was filed at the Chinese embassy in December after Filipino officials received “a report from the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies about a weapons buildup on seven artificial islands in the Spratlys.”
Of that report, Yasay stated “we cannot engage China in a war,” but also made clear the Duterte administration is doing its duty to its people. Yasay said that upon learning of China’s actions, “we made sure that the interests and rights of the Philippines are properly protected.”
Diplomatically. With an official complaint. That’s the distinction.
It was not so very long ago, remember, that Duterte was calling President Obama a son of a whore — publicly, for the world to see. In fact, the very word Yasay used to describe the type of action the Philippines shouldn’t take on the South China Sea issue, “provocative,” is precisely the word repeatedly used to describe Duterte’s behavior toward the United States before he pivoted to China.
So the complaint, ironically, is actually further indication of an increasing cooperation between the Philippines and China. Yasay has already stated that last year’s ruling at the Hague — a Filipino victory in which China was denied its near all-encompassing claim to the South China Sea — would not be on the agenda at this year’s ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit.
This means, quite clearly, that President Duterte has no intention of holding China to the Hague’s verdict.
All of this should make the coming weeks and months quite interesting, to say the least, as incoming President Trump’s anti-China stance will no doubt intensify once he takes office — right as some countries are working to de-escalate tensions with the regional superpower.
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