Duterte says helpless against China

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MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday there was no point protesting Chinese artificial island building in disputed areas of the South China Sea because it could not be stopped.

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Duterte made the comments on the eve of him hosting a two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, and he confirmed he would not use the event to pressure China on its expansionism in the strategically vital waters.

“It cannot be an issue anymore. It’s already there. What would be the purpose also of discussing it if you cannot do anything,” Duterte told reporters.

China has been turning reefs and shoals in areas of the sea claimed by the Philippines and other nations into artificial islands, and installing military facilities there.

The United States has criticized the construction work, warning against militarization in the waterway where $5 trillion in annual trade passes.

China’s reclamation has also rattled other claimants, which include ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino 3rd, had challenged China by asking a UN-backed tribunal to outlaw Beijing’s sweeping claims to the sea and its reclamation work.

The tribunal last year ruled largely in the Philippines’ favor.

However Duterte, who came to office shortly before the ruling was issued, adopted a pragmatic approach to dealing with China in a bid to win billions of dollars worth of trade and aid.

Duterte, who has also sought to loosen the Philippines’ long-standing alliance with the United States, on Thursday blamed the superpower for failing to stop China’s reclamation activities.

“Who can stop that? Us? It’s only America. But how come they allowed that to happen,” Duterte said, adding the United States could have used its Navy to stop the reclamation work years ago.

Duterte said he would not raise the ruling during this week’s ASEAN summit.

“I will skip the arbitral ruling. It is not an issue here in the ASEAN,” he said.

“It’s only between China and the Philippines so I will skip that.”

Duterte said he preferred to discuss a code of conduct on the South China Sea.

Philippine diplomats have said a “framework” code of conduct might be completed by June.

Duterte expressed optimism a code of conduct would ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the waters.

“The code of conduct at sea is another story. It must be taken up,” Duterte said referring to the ASEAN summit.

Analysts have cautioned that China has been delaying negotiations on a code since it was proposed 15 years ago, and used that time to build its artificial islands and take control of other contested features. AFP

AFP/CC

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2 Comments

  1. PH is an archipelagic country of 7,100 islands meaning it is covered more of water than land masses yet we Filipinos hardly think that we own our nearest shores and free too to navigate international waters thereabouts. Such nationalistic vacuum must have invited China’s enterprising in the SCS. What a big disconnect! Where credit is due, we laud and honor former Prez Pinoy for seeking that UN-backed tribunal ruling on our SCS claim. In a narrowed election choice, I voted for Merriam but majority notoriety has it for Duterte. I somehow liked Duterte’s perceived strong political will but sighed with dismay when he seemed to mix up our assertion of Scarborouh Shaol rights as outright challenge to China’s military might. In his bravado image, he is not yet in a desperate situation much like the Allied Forces abandoned – ‘Death March’ experience where some of our ancestors were forced to collaborate with the enemy during the Japanese occupation. Probably few did collaborated then just to buy time for a greater good of making many that later lived and died honorably. Should war be inevitable, we can be of the same fervor as our forebears kind of upbringing undoubtedly so attuned to our national anthem’s content. There was that Churchill’s remark after Chamberlain returned from signing the Munich pact with Hitler, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will still have war.”

  2. Well part of the problem is Barak Obama, & pinggoy Aquino, and the other half is you Mr. DU30. You colluded with China, instead of just staying the course with the US and now you waved the white flag. Well done, you’ll go down in history that bullied the Filipinos and gave China part of the Philippines. SAD!!!!!