Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday called on China to match with actions its declaration that it wanted peace in the West Philippine Sea, calling Beijing a “bully” after seizing control of the uninhabited Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

Most Filipinos will continue to distrust China in surveys until it does what it says in the South China Sea dispute, Lorenzana said, noting a 13-percentage-point drop in its trust ratings from December 2018 to June 2019 in Pulse Asia surveys.

China’s distrust rating among 1,200 Filipinos 18 years old and above surveyed by Pulse was a high 74 percent, in contrast with high trust ratings for the United States and Japan.

“It does not match what they are doing,” Lorenzana told reporters, reacting to a speech by Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Monday. “They are saying that we do not bully people around, the way that they took over Shoal to me that is, that was bullying.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has built artificial islands, transforming them into military bases with airfields and secured ports. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims on the strategic waterway where about $3 trillion worth of global trade pass every year.

Last month, a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a local fishing boat in Recto or Reed Bank, abandoning 22 fishermen who were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing crew.

Since 2016, Lorenzana said, he has been hearing from President Xi Jinping, from his defense and other ministers and from the ambassador Zhao Jianhua about China’s peaceful rise. “Nothing new from what they are saying,” he said. “But, it does not match what they are doing on the ground.”

The Philippines and China held diplomatic consultations on July 23, during which, the Chinese foreign ministry said, both sides agreed to “stay committed” to the general direction of China-Philippines good neighborliness, peace and stability in the South China Sea and regional cooperation and development.

“The two sides believe that with the concerted efforts of China, the Philippines and other countries in the region, the situation in the South China Sea has been stabilized in general, with growing momentum for cooperation and increasing positive factors,” Beijing said on July 26. (PressOnePH)