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Too much of an ‘irritant’? Palace unsure if Duterte will raise Chinese warships’ presence in PH with Xi

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Malacañang can’t say if President Rodrigo Duterte will raise the issue of Chinese warships’ repeated passage through Sibutu Strait near Tawi-tawi when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month.

“That’s the call of the President, whatever issue he wants to take with the President Xi,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters at a media forum Saturday (August 17).

“But I suppose taking that up will also be important because, as Mr. Lorenzana said…the incident has been repeatedly done and, therefore, it is becoming an irritant, and we have to know exactly why they’re passing through that straight when the shortest route going to China can be done on a different route,” he added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command has monitored five Chinese warships passing through Sibutu Strait between July and August. The vessels turned off their Automatic Identification Systems while in Philippine waters.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said he hopes Duterte will mention the Chinese warships’ presence in the country with Xi since the incidents are becoming an “irritant.”

Panelo said thee government wants to know the reason why the Chinese warships are passing through Philippine waters.

“We want to know bakit sila doon dumadaan,” he said.

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