Duterte not in a hurry to resolve sea dispute

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte believed Thursday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was on the right track for not imposing a non-adversarial approach to resolving the South China Sea disputes.

During the High-Level Forum on Asean, Duterte said the 10-member regional bloc made a "correct step" in negotiating with China over overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.

"The South China Sea is one [problem] but we are not in a hurry. And as a matter of fact, what we did was really the correct step and to avoid a confrontation talk with almost all of the concerned parties, just ask for a limited time to solve the problem and sharing of resources if it could be done," he said in a speech delivered at Conrad Hotel in Pasay City.

"There's no such thing, as you can claim the international waters as your own. The economic zones are good and our consensus and concessions that are part of the respect for each other's interest," he added.

Duterte has maintained a soft stance in addressing the territorial disputes with China, which he considered as Philippines' "friend."

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, Netherlands issued a final ruling, which invalidated China's claim to vast waters of contested South China Sea.

Duterte, however, has refused to invoke the international court's ruling, saying the Philippines is not prepared to go to war with China.

In April, Duterte's message as Asean chair also made no mention about the arbitral ruling on the maritime disputes and China's reported reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea.

Four Asean member-states – Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam – are claiming parts of the South China Sea. China and Taiwan, on the other hand, are claiming most of its features.

A phrase citing Asean leaders' "serious concerns" over "reclamation and militarization that may complicate the situation" on the disputed island has been omitted from the final joint statement of the regional bloc.

Duterte said it would not be good for Asean member-states to be involved in another "very high tension" with China, which has already expressed unwillingness to accept hostile approach.

"China has stood pat on its decision. We need not to go to war for that. It's not good to add something which is already a very high-tension existing in Asia itself," the President said. (SunStar Philippines)
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