18:04 GMT14 May 2021
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    Since April, Beijing and Manila have been embroiled in a standoff over fishing grounds near South China Sea reefs claimed by both sides.

    Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has used obscene language to berate Beijing for declining to withdraw its ships from the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.

    The area is a ring-shaped coral reef located in what the Philippines sees as its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

    "China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F**K OUT. What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We're trying. You. You're like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province […]", Locsin tweeted on Monday.

    The top Philippine diplomat also referred to a UN arbitration against Beijing's territorial claim on the "nine-dash line" covering most of the South China Sea, initiated by the Philippines in 2013.

    Beijing refused to acknowledge the tribunal's decision and refused to withdraw its forces from the area after the final ruling in 2016 stated that China had no historic rights to claim the "nine-dash line".

    Locsin's remarks followed a statement by the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier on Monday, protesting "the shadowing, blocking, dangerous manoeuvre, and radio challenges by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) of Philippine Coast Guard vessels conducting legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc" on 24-25 April 2021.

    The DFA urged China to withdraw its government vessels from Bajo de Masinloc and "respect Philippine sovereignty". Beijing has not commented on Locsin's remarks yet.

    Some of the about 220 Chinese vessels reported by the Philippine Coast Guard, and believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, are pictured at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, March 7, 2021. Picture taken March 7, 2021.
    © REUTERS / Philippine Coast Guard
    Some of the about 220 Chinese vessels reported by the Philippine Coast Guard, and believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, are pictured at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, March 7, 2021. Picture taken March 7, 2021.

    The developments came after the Philippines last month spotted unknown structures installed on a series of reefs in the South China Sea, where a spate of Chinese fishing vessels, allegedly manned by militias, was earlier tracked by Manila. The Philippine military said the structures were tracked during maritime patrols near the Whitsun Reef, stressing that the installation of the said structures runs counter to international law.

    "The Laws of the Sea gives the Philippines indisputable and exclusive rights over the area. These constructions and other activities, economic or otherwise, are prejudicial to the peace, good order, and security of our territorial waters. These structures are illegal", Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana pointed out in a statement.

    While Manila lodged a diplomatic protest over the issue and demanded these vessels leave the area, Beijing rejected the Philippines' allegations, claiming that China has no maritime "militia" abroad. 

    In this photo provided by U.S. Navy, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams alongside the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, not in photo) in the South China Sea, Monday, July 6, 2020.
    © AP Photo / Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Kimani J. Wint
    In this photo provided by U.S. Navy, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams alongside the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, not in photo) in the South China Sea, Monday, July 6, 2020.

    The White House later stated that the US and the Philippines had voiced concern over the alleged presence of Chinese maritime "militia" vessels near the disputed Whitsun Reef, reaffirming that Washington considers the US-Philippines Mutual Defence Treaty applicable in the South China Sea.

    The Whitsun Reef is part of the sea's Spratly archipelago, claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

    The US is also actively engaged in the South China Sea-related dispute although Washington has no claims to the area. The US Navy repeatedly sends its ships to the South China Sea to fulfill "freedom of navigation" missions, causing harsh criticism from Beijing. 

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