Philippines defence minister calls out China official for “gutter-level talk”

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ defense secretary on Wednesday accused a Chinese foreign ministry official of insulting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr during a news briefing, stooping to what he called “low and gutter-level talk.”

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro in a statement also accused spokesperson Mao Ning of “spouting state-sanctioned propaganda and disinformation”.

Teodoro was reacting to Mao’s remarks on Tuesday telling Marcos to “read more books to properly understand the ins and outs of the Taiwan issue” after he had congratulated the democratically governed island’s election winner Lai Ching-te, referring to him as president.

“It is unfortunate that the (Chinese) ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson stooped to such low and gutter-level talk – resorting to insulting our president and the Filipino nation, and further debasing herself, the ministry, and party she represents in the process,” Teodoro said in a statement.

China’s embassy in Manila and its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Teodoro’s comments, the latest in a succession of rhetorical spats between Beijing and staunch U.S.-ally Manila.

The congratulatory remarks on Monday by Marcos were followed by his foreign ministry reaffirming the country’s “One China policy” and stressing that the message of Marcos intended to recognise the Philippines and Taiwan’s “mutual interests”, including 200,000 Filipino workers in the democratically governed island.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)