- President Rodrigo Duterte did not raise China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea during the Asean-China Summit in Thailand on Sunday.
- Palace also kept mum on the recent blocking of a Filipino-manned oil tanker in Scarborough Shoal by some Chinese vessels.
- Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously urged the Chinese government to “respect international maritime laws” following the incident.
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte failed to raise the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) tension at the Asean-China Summit on Sunday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told the media in a briefing that Duterte did not raise China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea as well as the arbitral ruling favoring Manila over Beijing with Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang.
“What he said was the usual policy that the President has been saying all along, that every country must be rules-based. Meaning we will have to respect international law. We’ll have to respect UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Panelo told reporters.
“We cannot be forcing others to succumb to another country’s power. In other words, we should be treating each other equally and fairly,” he added.
As Country Coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Relations, Duterte said the Philippines is committed to push the negotiations forward and keep the momentum going.
“We are strongly committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to conclude the negotiations of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct,” Duterte said.
For Li’s part, he said that China is “ready to work” with Asean countries “to build on the existing foundation and the basis to strive for new progress on the guidelines.
Aside from the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims with China in the sea.
Meanwhile, Malacañang kept its hands off the recent blocking of a Filipino-manned oil tanker in Scarborough Shoal, claiming that the issue of Liberia’s concern as it is the country where the vessel was based.
M/T Green Aura, which sailed along the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, was swarmed by a Chinese vessel which introduced itself as a “naval warship” last September 30.
“It does not concern us because it is not a Philippine vessel,” Panelo said.
“For as long as they do not touch a Philippine ship or vessel, it will be the concern of that country that carries the flag of that particular vessel,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously urged the Chinese government to “respect international maritime laws” following the incident.
Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier agreed to fast-track the negotiations on the code of conduct in the South China Sea at the soonest possible time to prevent tensions in the disputed areas.
In 2016, the Philippines won its maritime case against Beijing over the West Philippine Sea after the national arbitral tribunal had decided that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line.”
Critics earlier called on Duterte to make a turnaround on his soft stance against China since assuming presidency in 2016. —Manila Times