A PHILIPPINE senator has urged China to stop holding military drills and its militarization around Taiwan and in the South China Sea, saying it could worsen tensions among regional neighbors.

“China must stop flexing her muscles around Taiwan and all across the South China Sea,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement on Sunday. “Militarizing the South China Sea is not the solution. Instead of working with governments to abate the tensions in the region, all Beijing has done is make matters worse.”

Beijing on May 23 kicked off war games around Taiwan that simulated strikes at Taiwan’s ports and airports, three days after Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, took office.

Taiwan has been independent from China since 1949, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory and views Taiwan as a “renegade province.”

Tensions between the Philippines and China have also worsened amid Beijing’s repeated attempts to block Philippine resupply missions to its troops stationed at a World War II shipwreck grounded on Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

The Philippines has filed 153 diplomatic protests against China under the Marcos administration, 20 in all this year, Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita C. Daza told reporters in a WhatsApp message on May 2.

“I hope the international community can unequivocally stand with Taiwan amid China’s continued belligerence,” Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel said. “Any conflict in our region affects not only our neighbors, but also the entire world.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez