Beijing adds ships in disputed South China Sea even after repeated protests, says Philippine top envoy

Filipino coastguard crew members monitoring Chinese vessels in the disputed South China Sea on April 27, 2021.
Filipino coastguard crew members monitoring Chinese vessels in the disputed South China Sea on April 27, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - China has added more ships in a disputed area of the South China Sea even after the Philippines' repeated protests, according to President Rodrigo Duterte's top diplomat, who has pledged to take up the issue with his Chinese counterpart.

The South-east Asian nation is considering another protest after Chinese vessels in the contested waters increased to almost 300 from just more than 200 in March, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said.

"This is essential because you never let any incident pass," he told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday (May 12).

Tensions between the two nations have been escalating over the past months, with the Philippines, backed by the United States, repeatedly protesting and seeking to have Chinese vessels in the South China Sea leave.

Mr Duterte has however maintained his friendly stance towards Beijing, recently calling it a "benefactor".

The vessels were simply "taking shelter from the wind", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on March 22 when the news first broke.

The Philippines will not give up its sea claims, Mr Locsin said, even as it seeks to cooperate with China on oil exploration and vaccines. "China's enormous economy is essential for post-pandemic recovery for the entire globe, let's face it," he said.