Duterte bound to raise sea disputes with Xi

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte, as chairperson of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2017, has the moral obligation to raise the regional bloc's concerns over the spat among claimants of resource-rich West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said on Saturday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was confident that Duterte, who seeks enhanced ties with China, would discuss with Chinese President Xi Jinping the Asean's concern over the territorial disputes, as well as the China's alleged militarization in the South China Sea.

Roque said the President would raise the issue not because it only concerns the Philippines but also it is a pressing issue that causes alarm among the member-states of the Asean.

"He will relay to China the need for China to clarify its intentions on the West Philippine Sea, particularly on the issue of freedom of navigation," Roque said in an interview in Vietnam.

"I am sure that he will pursue this issue, not only because it's relevant to the Philippines, but as he said,it's relevant to Asean in general and as chairman of Asean, he is duty-bound to raise the issue," he added.

Duterte is expected to hold a bilateral dialogue with Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam on the afternoon of November 11, Saturday.

While the Philippines' ties with China have improved under Duterte's watch, Xi has maintained that it would not accept hostile approach on how the sea row should be resolved.

On November 9, Thursday, the President said he would be straightforward yet soft-spoken when he speaks about the conflicting claims in the vast waters of the South China Sea.

Duterte also stressed the need to have a swift passage of code of conduct that would provide rules on how sea claimants would govern the "use of the seas."

"Now, we are friends [with China]. But what is the rule here [is] for everybody that's applicable to us, that is also applicable for Asean because I am the chair of the Asean. And I have to carry the voice of Asean. I don't have to parry. I have to tell the truth that everybody is worried," the President said.

"The Asean's [position is] up to where are we supposed and to what extent would be the use of that passage? The best way is to have a written code of conduct. So just you read it and you'd know that you are not crossing the boundaries because as of now, it is a contested claim," he added. (SunStar Philippines)


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