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China summons PH ambassador after Marcos congratulates Taiwan's Lai

BEIJING — China on Tuesday summoned the ambassador from the Philippines and warned the country "not to play with fire" after its President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday congratulated Taiwan's president-elect Lai Ching-te on his election victory.

"The relevant remarks of President Marcos constitute a serious violation of the One China principle and ... a serious breach of the political commitments made by the Philippines to the Chinese side, and a gross interference in China's internal affairs," spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

"China has lodged a strong protest with the Philippines at the earliest opportunity," and summoned its ambassador "to give China a responsible explanation", Mao said.

"We suggest that President Marcos read more books to properly understand the ins and outs of the Taiwan issue, so as to draw the right conclusions."

Asked for comment on the matter, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil told Palace reporters to refer to the statement that was earlier released by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Earlier in the day, the Philippines' Foreign Affairs Department issued a statement reaffirming the country's "One China policy" after Marcos' comment.

The DFA clarified that Marcos' message congratulating the new Taiwanese president "was his way of thanking them for hosting our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and holding a successful democratic process."

"Nevertheless, the Philippines reaffirms its One China Policy," the DFA said.

There are nearly 200,000 OFWs in Taiwan, mostly working in factories, according to the DFA.

During their bilateral meeting in May 2023, Marcos and United States President Joe Biden have expressed the need to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. China has since viewed democratic Taiwan as part of its territory.

Congratulatory message

On Monday, evening, Marcos posted on X (formerly Twitter) his congratulatory message to Lai.

"On behalf of the Filipino people, I congratulate President-elect Lai Ching-te on his election as Taiwan's next President," Marcos said.

"We look forward to close collaboration, strengthening mutual interests, fostering peace, and ensuring prosperity for our peoples in the years ahead," he added.

Lai immediately thanked Marcos for the message.

"Thank you, President @bongbongmarcos for your congratulations. I deeply value the enduring friendship between #Taiwan & the #Philippines," Lai said in a statement on X.

"I look forward to enhancing our economic and people-to-people ties while championing democracy, peace & prosperity in the region," he added.

In deference to the One China Policy, Manila does not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a democratic self-ruling island which has been separated from the Chinese mainland since 1949. The Philippines, however, maintains a de-facto embassy in Taiwan called the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

Other leaders have also congratulated Lai on his victory, with many, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, calling for peaceful resolution of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. — Reuters with Anna Felicia Bajo/RSJ, GMA Integrated News