Since he came to power, President Duterte has touted his pivot to China as the country’s great hope to speed development with the help of Chinese investments and loans. In exchange for this “goodwill,” the President had set aside a landmark 2016 arbitral decision in favor of the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. Talking up his “independent foreign policy,” the President refused to say a negative word about China’s illegal military activities in the West Philippine Sea—including the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat that was rammed by a Chinese trawler in 2019—while maintaining a steady stream of angry anti-American rhetoric. In the latest iteration of this reluctance to criticize China, the President said nothing about a report that Chinese Navy ships had allegedly harassed a Filipino fishing boat carrying some journalists who were heading to a Philippine-occupied shoal in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Sought for comment, the President’s mouthpiece said the Palace would “defer” to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense to comment on the latest incident after Manila protested the presence of more than 200 ships belonging to China’s maritime militia at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) reef within the country’s EEZ.