fredag 7. mai 2021

Philippine election: will China and Whitsun Reef dispute loom large?

Beijing’s actions in the  South China Sea are threatening to become a central issue in next year’s
Philippine presidential election, as tensions flare over Chinese vessels’ presence near features in the disputed waters. Analysts say President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive assertions in the waters will influence the position of contenders to succeed him in the vote next May, which Duterte cannot contest because of the one-term limit.

Manila’s efforts to challenge China’s claimed sovereignty over most of the energy-rich sea were backed by an international tribunal’s 2016 verdict that most of Beijing’s claims had no legal basis, but Duterte has previously said he would “set aside” the ruling. The sensitivity of the issue has surfaced again, however, with disputes this year over Whitsun Reef and Scarborough Shoal – encapsulated this week when Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr tweeted that China should “get the f*** out”.

Using his personal Twitter account, Locsin demanded China remove its ships from features inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but also within Beijing’s nine-dash line. He tweeted: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see … get the f*** out. What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You.”