Imee Marcos says PH 'started trouble' with China by suing it before int'l tribunal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 11) — Senatorial aspirant Imee Marcos says Manila started the fight with China in the South China Sea by hauling Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague to challenge its sweeping territorial claims over the waters.

"Siyempre controversial 'to, maraming maiinis sa akin. Tayo nag-umpisa ng gulo eh. Bakit naman kasi natin hinabla sa world court?" Ilocos Norte Governor Marcos told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday. "We started it. We picked a fight and then ngayon, 'yun pala hindi natin kaya. Ano bang klase 'yun? Talagang takaw gulpi tayo."

[Translation: Of course this is controversial, a lot of people would get mad at me. We started trouble. Why did we sue them before a world court? … We started it. We picked a fight and then it turns out we're no match against them. What kind of thing is that? We're really looking for trouble.]

In a tweet, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. called Marcos' view "totally ignorant."

The Philippines did not sue China at the UN-backed PCA in 2013 out of nowhere. The case was filed two years after a standoff between the Philippines and China in Scarborough Shoal following an attempt by Filipino authorities to arrest Chinese fishermen suspected of illegal fishing there.

The U.S. moved to break the standoff, with Philippine ships leaving the area in keeping with the agreement with China brokered by Washington, but China stayed. The East Asian giant has continued to exercise control over the area to this day.

Maritime law experts said the PCA ruling, which struck down China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea, gave the Philippines an upper hand over China in the South China Sea, particularly in parts that it claims and calls the West Philippine Sea. China still does not recognize the tribunal's award.

READ: Gov't should be wary of 'careless talk' to avoid waiving arbitral ruling in South China Sea row

Despite claiming that the Philippines' suing China sparked the dispute between the two countries, Marcos said it is important that the Philippines asserts its sovereignty while still maintaining good relations with the East Asian giant.

She added that she trusts China as it never invaded the Philippines.

"Unlike the United States, Japan, the European powers na lahat nagsidatingan dito. Never naman sila pumasok dito at kinuha ang ating bansa. Ang nangyari lamang, siguro may mga Chinese pirates, pati sila hinuhuli nila," Marcos said.

[Translation: Unlike the United States, Japan and the European powers that arrived here. They never entered and took our country. Maybe there were Chinese pirates, but they were also apprehended.]

The military recently confirmed that it has spotted nearly 400 Chinese vessels swarming near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the first quarter of the year. The Philippines has "fired off a salvo" of diplomatic notes and has repeatedly said that China should leave the area.

READ: Hontiveros wants Senate to seek help of int'l community on China

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and communist China were first established under the rule of Marcos' father, former President Ferdinand Marcos.