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Palace downplays Xi's warning of 'trouble' over West Philippine Sea oil exploration

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Palace downplays Xi's warning of 'trouble' over West Philippine Sea oil exploration
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019.
AFP / Brendan Smialowski

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has downplayed the threat of Chinese President Xi Jinping against oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said his Chinese counterpart warned of "trouble" if Filipinos would start oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea, which is within its exclusive economic zone.

"Sabi ko, I'm going there to dig oil. Sabi ni Xi Jinping, in whisper, tanungin mo sila, alam mo Mayor Duterte, we just restored our friendship. It was not good for a number of years pero huwag na muna tayo pag-usapan. Sabi niya, let's talk about helping each other, trade, commerce, investments, China can help. Doon na nag-start," Duterte said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that this was not a threat but rather a bit of "friendly advice."

This statement comes days after Duterte said the Chinese could continue trawling in the Philippine exclusive economic zone due to the friendship between the two countries.

Earlier this month, a suspected Chinese militia rammed a Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

The 22 Filipino crewmen of the boat said the Chinese vessel immediately left the scene after the collision as their watercraft was sinking.

The Chinese side, on the other hand, claimed that they tried to save the Filipino fishing boat but were "besieged" by other Filipino boats in the area.

Critics slammed Duterte for his position in allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in Philippine waters, citing that this could be a basis for impeachment.

The president, however, warned his critics that he would put them all behind bars if they tried to impeach him.

“Impeach ako? Kulungin ko sila lahat. Subukan ninyo,” Duterte told reporters at Malacañang. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES

RODRIGO DUTERTE

SOUTH CHINA SEA

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

XI JINPING

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