MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday said China’s vaccine aid and the swarming of Chinese fishing vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef are two “unrelated” subjects.
The statement came following concerns that the donations could be Beijing’s way of “softening the blow” of the unauthorized presence of over 200 Chinese ships on the Philippine exclusive economic zone this month.
“No, it is not. Unrelated. Any diminution of commitment to the totality of our rights in the West and South China Sea would disobey President Rodrigo Duterte’s United Nations declaration and is tantamount to disloyalty to the Republic,” Locsin said on Twitter.
A total of 400,000 doses of CoronaVac vaccines arrived in Manila on Wednesday morning, bringing to one million the total Covid-19 jabs Beijing donated to the country.
In an interview on the sidelines of its arrival, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian described the aid as an act of goodwill to help a neighbor better respond to the pandemic.
“As neighbors, we are helping each other in trying times, this is another joint effort which shows the kind of closer friendship and partnership between our two countries,” he said.
Concerns were raised following a Monday confirmation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that about 183 Chinese fishing vessels still linger in the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday issued a diplomatic protest against the presence of the ships on Philippine waters.
The United States immediately backed Manila, with other countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan also raising concerns on the region’s situation– a majority of whom relayed their positions over Twitter.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila responded to Tokyo by quote-retweeting Japanese Ambassador to Manila Koshikawa Kazuhiko that “China as a littoral state of the South China Sea is committed to managing differences through bilateral consultations”.
It even accused Japan of “willingly” stooping to acting as “a strategic vassal of the US” and stressed that “such despicable behavior is inviting the wolf into the house, betraying the collective interests of the whole region and doomed to fail.”
Australia was among the latest foreign government to air its side on the South China Sea situation, saying it remains concerned about “destabilizing actions” that could provoke an escalation of tension in the region.
“Australia supports an Indo-Pacific region which is secure, open, and inclusive. The South China Sea– a crucial international waterway– is governed by international rules and norms, particularly UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]. We remain concerned about destabilizing actions that could provoke escalation,” Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson said in a tweet Wednesday. (PNA)