“Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.”
on banners along key thoroughfares in Manila Philippines
MANILA (Reuters) – Banners calling the Philippines a “province of China” mysteriously appeared on bridges in Manila on Thursday, sparking fury on social media on what was the second anniversary of Manila’s victory over Beijing in a landmark arbitration case.
The terms “province of China” and “South China Sea” trended prominently on Twitter, while news reports of the sudden appearance of the red tarpaulin banners along key thoroughfares generated thousands of shares and comments on Facebook.
No group claimed responsibility for the banners, which feature English and Chinese characters and a Chinese flag flanked by dragons. City authorities were seen removing some of them, which were spotted in at least five locations.
Emojis denoting anger or surprise dominated comments on social media next to pictures of the signs, which say “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled two years ago that China had no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and it had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking its fishermen and building artificial islands in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
Some users accused the political opposition of making the signs to discredit the government’s warming ties with China.
Other chided the government for not challenging China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea. “This is too much. The country was sold off,” one Facebook user said.