MANILA

On sea dispute, Duterte insists on peace instead of war

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte maintained Monday, July 22, that his non-confrontational policy on the long-standing disputes between the Philippines and China in the resource-rich South China Sea would benefit the Filipinos.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address, Duterte reassured the nation that he would insist on the Philippines's ownership of the contested waters, but insisted that it is not time yet.

"About the West Philippine Sea, the avoidance of armed conflict and protection of or territorial waters and natural resources compel us to perform a delicate balancing act. A shooting war is grief and misery multiplier," he said.

"War leads widows and orphans in its way. I am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows, and more orphans, should war even on a limited scale break out," he added.

Duterte stressed that for now, the best option is to resolve the Manila's sea disputes with Beijing through diplomatic negotiations.

"We cannot, you know, have our own teeth," he said.

"More and better resource can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in the public. That is why I will do in a peaceful way, mindful in the pact that it is an international pride and territorial integrity that are at stake," he added.

The President also once again slammed critics for threatening to impeach him for being noncommital about China's activities within the Philippine waters.

The opposition has claimed that Duterte's alleged tolerance of Beijing's aggression in the South China Sea could be considered a culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution or betrayal of public trust, two of the five grounds for an impeachment of an elected official.

Manila and Beijing's resolve to keep the peace in the South China Sea was tested after a Chinese vessel on June 9 rammed, sank, and abandoned a Filipino fishing boat at Recto (Reed) Bank, which is located within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Duterte vowed to take actions concerning the sea disputes "in due time."

"There are those who say that we should stand up and stop those who fish in our economic zone. Of course, we will do in due time," the President said.

Duterte issued his latest pronouncement even after the June 22 to 26 poll by Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that 93 percent of Filipinos want Manila to regain control of the features in the South China Sea that are being currently occupied by Beijing.

The same SWS survey also found that 89 percent of Filipinos believe it was "not right" for Duterte to "leave China alone" with its continuing military build-up in the hotly-contested islands in the South China Sea.

Duterte has repeatedly refused to invoke the July 2016 landmark arbitral win against China's claim to South China Sea before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. (SunStar Philippines)


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