During a 2016 election debate, however, he vowed to ride a jet ski to the South China Sea so as to personally make claims if he assumes office.
"The US can not be more aggressive than we are in the disputed area", said Lacson, referring to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) between Manila and Beijing.
"China, my friend, how can I politely describe it?" Let me think ... or ... get away from the damnExternal Relations Minister Teodoro Luxen tweeted.
The department said it has lodged a diplomatic protest over the Chinese vessels' actions towards the Southeast Asian country's coastguard during patrols and training exercises near the reef last month.
The outburst is the latest of dozens of recent protests by Manila's foreign affairs department, along with increasingly acerbic remarks by the country's top diplomat and defence chief about Chinese actions in the disputed waters.
"What are you doing to our friendship?"
The department said it also protested "the incessant, illegal, prolonged and increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones" in the disputed waters. China claims virtually all of the South China Sea.
"Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies monitored the continued unauthorized presence and activities of hundreds of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea [WPS], particularly in the areas around the Pag-asa Islands, Zamora Reef, Panata and Kota Islands, Ayungin Shoal, Quirino Atoll, and Bajo de Masinloc, from January 1, to March 18, 2021", DFA added.
Beijing took control in 2012 and always ignored a decision issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in The Hague (Netherlands), which ruled in 2016 in Manila, saying that Beijing had no "historical right" to do so. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.
The note verbale said it rejects the statement of the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, who said that China enjoys sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag Shoal, the traditional fishing grounds of Filipino fishermen from Zambales.
"China remains to be our benefactor".
"Our statements are stronger too because of the more brazen nature of the activities, the number, frequency and proximity of intrusions", said Marie Yvette Banzon-Abalos, executive director for strategic communications at the Foreign Ministry.
Mr Duterte, for the most part, has pursued warmer ties with China in exchange for Beijing's promises of billions of dollars in investment, aid and loans.