China has no business telling the Philippines what it can or cannot do within its waters, Manila’s defence ministry said on Wednesday, rejecting Beijing’s opposition to its ongoing coastguard exercises.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes each year. In 2016, an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that claim, which Beijing bases on its old maps, was inconsistent with international law.

Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Beijinghad “no authority or legal basis to prevent us from conducting these exercises” in the South China Sea because “their claims… have no basis”.

The Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau started maritime exercises on Saturday inside the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), following an announcement of a boosting of its presence to counter the “threatening” presence of Chinese boats.

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