Roque: Duterte's temper flared when China warned PH aircraft in South China Sea

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The Palace clarifies President Duterte did not fight with China, but only lost his temper when China issued a stern warning against a Philippine aircraft in the South China Sea. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — President Rodrigo Duterte lost his temper when the Chinese military threatened a Philippine aircraft flying over the South China Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that Duterte did not quarrel with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as could be gleaned from Duterte's televised tête-à-tête with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sal Panelo on Tuesday.

"Hindi naman nag-away kundi 'uminit ang ulo niya' siguro is a better expression," Roque said. "Uminit ang ulo niya doon sa nabalita na warning na binigay doon sa mga piloto natin na lumilipad sa isla na pag-aari natin. Uminit lang ang ulo, nagkainitan."

[Translation: "They did not really fight. 'His temper flared' is probably a better expression. His temper flared over reports of the warning given to our pilots who flew over islands we own. His temper just flared. That's all."]

Duterte on Tuesday admitted he got into a fight with China, without referring to any official of the East Asian giant.

"Kaya nag-away kami. We had a little bit of - hindi naman animosity kasi 'yung Navy palapit doon eh parang sinasigawan nila, "You Filipinos, you get (out of) there you will be causing trouble." Eh samantalang kaibigan tayo," Duterte said.

[Translation: "So we had a fight. We had a little bit of – not really animosity because they shouted at our Navy going there, 'You Filipinos, you get (out of) there you will be causing trouble.' But we are friends."]

BBC reported last month that China threatened U.S. and Filipino aircrafts flying over the Spratly Islands, which is being claimed by the Philippines and China. 

In the British broadcasting network's report aboard a U.S. military plane, the Chinese could be heard warning the Filipino aircraft: "Philippine military aircraft, I'm warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences."

In response to the incident, Duterte last month said he hopes China would temper its behavior in the disputed waters, saying he does not want to "quarrel with China." He also said China does not need to use "nasty words" against Filipinos.

Malacañang on Wednesday said the incident did not change the Philippines' relations with China.

"Pareho pa rin po. Ang hindi pwedeng mapagkasunduan, isinasantabi, ang pwedeng isulong, isusulong (It stays the same. Whatever we can't agree on will be set aside, those we can pursue we'll pursue)," Roque said.

He said the next step would be forging an agreement on joint exploration for oil and gas in the South China Sea, which the government is eyeing to happen this year.

Duterte has been criticized for pursuing friendly ties with China amid the long-standing dispute on the South China Sea.

China has refused to recognize the July 2016 international arbitral tribunal ruling that invalidated its sweeping claims in the South China Sea and recognized Philippines sovereign rights in areas within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Duterte promised to bring the matter up with China during his term.