Pushing the limits of COVID diplomacy, Philippines threatens to expel Chinese official

  • Apr 07, 2021
  • Sydney Morning Herald

Singapore: The Philippines has threatened to expel a Chinese diplomatic spokesman in Manila in the latest twist of an intensifying row with the superpower over territory in the South China Sea.

The Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries in the Philippines have been up in arms for a fortnight over the presence of 220 fishing boats suspected to be manned by Chinese maritime militia at Whitsun Reef, with statements flying back and forth over the alleged incursion into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

A satellite image shows Chinese vessels anchored at Whitsun Reef, located in the disputed South China Sea. Credit:Maxar Technologies via AP

With dozens of the vessels remaining in the area, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin jnr said on Wednesday he was “firing off another diplomatic protest” to China’s embassy and would continue objecting “every day until the last one’s gone like it should be by now if it is really fishing”.

The Philippines has had its navy patrol near the disputed reef in the Spratly Islands since the discovery of the Chinese flotilla last month and has rejected China’s claims they are merely fishing boats, with Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying they represented an utter disregard for international law and revealed China’s “intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea”.