By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores


Some of the Chinese vessels have already left the Julian Felipe Reef because of the warm relationship between Philippines and China, Malacañang said Monday.

"220 po ang ships in early March, at dahil sa pag-uusap ni Chinese Ambassador [to the Philippines] Huang Xilian at ni President Duterte at sa ating warm relations with China, bumaba po ang numero. 136 po ang umalis. ‘Yung second batch ay another 65," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a media presser.

There were at least 14 vessels still anchored near the reef as Beijing claimed that the ships were taking shelter in the area due to “inclement” conditions in the sea. 

"We are still hoping that they (remaining ships) will leave the area. Kaya hindi po totoo na hindi pinansin ang President," said Roque.

Meanwhile, the country’s top diplomat, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told China to “get the f--- out” of the disputed islands.

Locsin tweeted the remark as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a series of diplomatic protests due to China’s “belligerent” actions against the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for patrolling in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc or the Scarborough Shoal.

When asked for comment on Locsin’s tweet, Roque said the official has the freedom to speak about the issue.

"Hindi po natin pinanghihimasukan ang karapatan ng malayang pananalita ni Secretary Locsin,” he said.

It was in July 2016 when the Hague Court of Arbitration favored the Philippines’ case against China’s nine-dash claim of sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The decision also concluded that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban Reef, Ayungin Shoal, and the Recto Bank are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

However, China rejected the ruling by saying the territorial issue is “indisputable.”