The Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines said Tuesday that satirical banners portraying the country as a province of China were an attack on Filipino-Chinese relations.
“It’s kind of a vicious attack… it is bad for the bilateral relationship and it’s also bad for the Filipino people,” said Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.
His remarks followed news that a Chinese research vessel docked in Davao City Monday night to be “refurbished.”
The Navy said the Yuan Wang 3, a Chinese research vessel used for tracking and support of satellite and intercontinental ballistic missiles, docked in Davao City at 9:40 pm on Monday.
A Navy spokesman, Commander Jonathan Zata, said the visit was “routine” and there was nothing unusual about it.
“They are here for a replenishment, as granted by the diplomatic clearance issued by higher authorities. This is a routine ship visit similar to any other foreign ship wishing to call on our ports,” Zata said.
The satirical banners, which said “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China,” were strewn over several pedestrian walkways on July 12, the second anniversary of a UN tribunal’s decision favoring the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.
On Tuesday, Zhao said “the Philippines can never be any part of China… not now, not ever.”
The Palace had accused “the government’s enemies” of being behind the banners.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also confirmed the arrival of the Chinese vessel in Davao.
“Yes. We know about it. The Chinese ambassador wrote to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs [Alan] Cayetano that it would be docking in Davao to refurbish, and it was allowed to do so,” Lorenzana told the online news service Rappler.
The Chinese vessel is expected to stay in Davao City until July 19.
Based on reports on the Philippine government news site, Yuan Wang 3 also docked in Davao in August 2010, which drew suspicion because the crew members of the vessel did not allow any members of the media and some officials of the Bureau of Customs to enter.
Chinese ships and military planes have been stopping in Davao more frequently, prompting the opposition to call for a congressional probe.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he would allow China sufficient time to sort out things in resolving the issue on the West Philippine Sea and said he hoped that China will be fair.
“We have promised to deal with the problem from the President himself, President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, that we will discuss this at some other time, as China has to deal individually with bilateral relations and issues,” Duterte said during the groundbreaking ceremony for two bridges being built with Chinese aid, the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge.
The President said the improvement in bilateral relations will contribute to stability in the South China Sea and promote prosperity in the region.
During the ceremony, he also observed that China is critical to the arbitration case filed by the Philippines before the international tribunal which won by the Philippines.
He said talks to resolve the issue were ongoing.
The President, who appeared cool to the filing of a diplomatic protest, declined to comment further on the West Philippine Sea.
“I cannot talk about―well, elaborate [on] things now... But in the days to come, we would realize that China, after all, is really a good neighbor,” he said.
Zhao was also at the groundbreaking ceremonies.
Duterte instructed Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar to complete the two projects in three years.
“These bridges will not only improve the capacity and the efficiency of Metro Manila’s transportation corridor by providing additional bridges and routes across the Pasig River but will also enhance the resilience of our road network against natural disasters,” Duterte said.
Duterte expressed his appreciation to China for funding the construction of these two bridges.
“As a friend, China has once again proved that they intend to join us in achieving lasting progress by addressing traffic congestion in Metro Manila,” he said.
“Indeed, the construction of these bridges will not just connect these very strategic areas, but will also contribute to our quest to spur vibrant economic activities through an efficient and reliable road transportation network,” he added.