Roque: No PH-China tension over West Philippine Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 18) — There is currently no tension between the country and China over the West Philippine Sea as far as Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque is concerned, as he once again accused government critics of exaggerating the issues surrounding the disputed waters.

“Wala po akong nakikitang tension sa West Philippine Sea,” Roque said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday. “Ang tension po ay binubuo ng kritiko dito lang sa Pilipinas.”

[Translation: I don’t see any tension in the West Philippine Sea. This tension is only being made up by critics here in the Philippines.]

While problems between the two nations remain due to warring claims, Roque said these are not as serious as the conflict during the previous administration, when Philippine ships had a standoff with Chinese vessels in the Scarborough Shoal.

“Alam naman po natin na may problema, pero wala pong tension, hindi gaya ng nangyari sa Scarborough Shoal," he said. "Ang ingay ay naririto sa Pilipinas lamang.”

[Translation: We know there’s a problem, but there’s no tension unlike what happened in the Scarborough Shoal. The noise is only here in the Philippines.]

In late March this year, Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef sent radio challenges to a Philippine military aircraft patrolling the West Philippine Sea, asking it to “leave immediately."

The same demand was returned by both the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs which issued strongly worded statements against China for amassing its ships in Philippine waters.

The DFA has fired off numerous diplomatic protests. Beijing, for its part, merely reiterated its claims and told Manila to stop its drills in the West Philippine Sea.

Despite these developments, Duterte said the country owes China a huge debt of gratitude and that he “wouldn’t want trouble with them.”

Roque has also maintained that a "warm friendship" between the two countries remains, even adding he believes that the Philippine-Chinese relations is currently "enjoying [its] renaissance."