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Philippines building up fleet in S. China Sea to counter Chines

(This aerial file photo taken on Jan 2, 2017 shows a Chinese Navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (centre), during military drills in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP)

MANILA, (AFP):- The Philippines is taking a page out of China’s book by building up its own fleet that includes fishing boats in the South China Sea, the Southeast Asian nation’s top diplomat said.

“We are swarming the areas because that’s the Chinese strategy– to swarm the areas also with the fishing boats,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in an online discussion this week organised by Asia Society.

“The likelihood of an accident increases tremendously” by deploying vessels in disputed waters, Locsin said. He also said the Philippines’ defence treaty with the US will kick in if one of the country’s military vessels is hit, citing US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s assurance last year.

President Rodrigo Duterte has recently leaned back toward the US and toughened his stance against China. Last month in front of world leaders, he defended the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling in favour of the Philippines that said Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea breached international law.

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