Manila: The Philippines Defence Secretary has called out a Chinese official for insulting President Ferdinand Marco Jr and the Filipino nation with his “low and gutter-level talk.”
In a statement by the Philippine Department of National Defence on Wednesday, Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said, “It is unfortunate that the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson stooped to such low and gutter level talk-resorting to insulting our President and the Filipino nation and further debasing herself, the Ministry, and Party she represents in the process.”
The development followed after President Ferdinand Marcos on Tuesday sent Taiwanese President-elect Lai Ching-te a congratulatory note on his victory in the recent polls.
The highly undiplomatic comments from Beijing, which warned Manila “not to play with fire,” will likely deepen the tension between the pair, which have been jousting over contesting territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In a social media post on Monday, Marcos told Lai, a staunch opponent of China and its claims to Taiwan, that he looks forward to cooperating with the country.
Expressing disappointment over Marco’s statement, Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning said, “The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposes” Marcos’s remarks while urging Manila to give “a responsible explanation”.
The Philippines Defence Secretary said that the Chinese official’s reaction was not surprising considering that China “routinely spouts State-sanctioned propaganda and disinformation.”
“We should not at all be surprised – being a nation and people enjoying the privileges, rights, and freedoms of a democratic society – that an agent of a party and system of government incompatible with our way of life and who routinely spouts state-sanctioned propaganda and disinformation would go that far and that low,” the Philippines official said.
“It is unfortunate, but I am, myself, unsurprised. We, and the world, should not expect more,” he said.
The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry earlier said that Marcos’s remarks were a way of recognizing the Philippines and Taiwan’s “mutual interests”, including the 200,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the island, Al Jazeera reported.
“The message of President Marcos congratulating the new president was his way of thanking them for hosting our OFWs and holding a successful democratic process. Nevertheless, the Philippines reaffirms its One China Policy,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, however, said that the remarks still violated the “one China” principle, a principle that Beijing says provides the basis of its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said that Marcos’s remarks were “a serious breach of the political commitments made by the Philippines to the Chinese side and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”
“We are telling the Philippine side not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue … and to stop immediately its wrongful words and deeds on Taiwan-related issues and sending wrong signals to separatist forces for Taiwan independence,” she added.
Beijing does not maintain diplomatic ties with countries that recognize Taiwan and opposes official communications with Taipei by other countries.
Independence-leaning Lai secured an easy victory in Taiwan’s presidential election on January 13. The president-elect has also offered to hold talks with China, but Beijing has snubbed the invitation, Al Jazeera reported.
Other leaders that have also congratulated Lai on his victory include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa.
Recent months have seen Beijing engaged in tense standoffs with the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea.
China has also been ramping up its military activity around Taiwan. China has vowed to seize the island it considers part of its territory by force if necessary.