In April 2018, President Duterte declared, “I just simply love Xi Jinping.” President Duterte made this declaration in a press conference in Davao City just before he left for China to attend the Boao Forum for Asia. Unfortunately for President Duterte, and more so for the Filipino people, this public expression of love has been unrequited.
President Xi has described himself as the architect of China’s relentless expansion into the South China Sea. Despite President Duterte’s professed love for him, President Xi has sent hundreds of his maritime militia vessels to swarm around the territorial sea of Pag-asa Island, the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys. These Chinese maritime militia vessels just loiter or park around the 12-nautical mile territorial sea of Pag-asa, in clear violation of Philippine sovereignty. Foreign vessels can sail in the territorial sea of another state only in the exercise of innocent passage, which must be straight and continuous without loitering or stopping.