Duterte hopes China will 'temper its behavior' in disputed areas

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — President Rodrigo Duterte, in a rare rebuke of China, said Beijing cannot simply claim jurisdiction over airspace above artificial islands it built in the disputed South China Sea.

"You cannot create an island," Duterte said in Go Negosyo's Pilipinas Angat Lahat program in Malacañang Tuesday. "It's man-made… and you say that the air above this artifical island is yours. That is wrong."

Duterte said the right of innocent passage is granted over open seas thus there is no need to ask for permission from China.

"So I hope that China will temper its, at least its behavior," he added. "I do not want to quarrel with China."

The President's statement comes following a report last week by the BBC  of the Chinese threatening a Philippine military aircraft flying over the South China Sea — an area where the two countries have ongoing maritime disputes.

In the British broadcasting network's report aboard a U.S. military plane, the Chinese could be heard warning the U.S. aircraft: "China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters. Leave immediately and keep far off to avoid misunderstanding."

But the warning took on a harsher tone when it was directed at the Philippine aircraft — "Philippine military aircraft, I'm warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!,"

The Chinese military routinely warn foreign aircraft flying over the South China Sea but Duterte apparently reacted after the television report caught the warnings on video.

Duterte has been criticized for his warm ties with China, despite Beijing's refusal to comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines' sovereign rights over contested areas in the region.

In a speech in February before Chinese and Filipino businessmen as well as China's ambassador, he jokingly offered to make the Philippines a province of China.