August 09, 2019
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday slammed China for delaying the passage of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China (West Philippine) Sea and vowed to discuss the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this month.
“That’s why I’m going there. They are delaying it and it’s causing so many incidents, and one day it will — one mistake, a miscalculation there and mahirap na bawian ‘yun (there would be no turning back),” Duterte said during a chance interview.
“It could be China. Nobody else is asking us to wait,” he added.
The President earlier said he would raise the ruling of a United Nations (UN)-backed arbitral tribunal invalidating China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea and the proposed “60-40” sharing deal on the two countries’ planned joint exploration.
“We would talk about what’s the situation in the China Sea or West Philippine Sea, I’d like to call it. So, lahat na (All of it). One is ‘yung (the) Code of Conduct. It’s becoming a very big issue. I do not want trouble for my country, but whether we like it or not, it would not be good for my country to be in a state of violence,” the President said.
“So, I’d talk about the arbitral ruling itself. Then the Code of Conduct and ‘yung mga (the) marine resources. Let us first be sure that we have the access. And I’m most interested in the exploitation of the natural resources. Para sa akin, kung — if it’s without touching on the validity of who’s the real owner, takes time, we can start the talks. But I’m most interested in the extraction of the natural resources,” he added.
The Philippines serves as the coordinator of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China dialogue partnership from 2018 to 2021, which includes negotiations for the COC.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte had downplayed Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second largest economy.
Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ victory against China in a UN-backed arbitration court in 20160, which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.
The President had said Manila could not stand up to Beijing, whose military and economy are were superior.
However, last week, the President said it was time to discuss the issue with China’s leader.
The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.
Also on Thursday, Malacañang said the Philippine government might rescind agreements with China if they threaten national security.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement as the government, through the Department of National Defense, looked into the reported plan of Chinese investors to develop three strategic islands of the Philippines into economic hubs.
“Of course we can… hindi tayo papayag kung security threat eh (we will not allow if it’s a security threat),” Panelo said when asked if the government can rescind the agreement.
“According to Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, this may raise security concern, so pag-aaralan (we will study it),” he added.
Fuga Island in Cagayan and Chiquita and Grande Islands in Subic Bay, Zambales will reportedly be transformed into tourist destinations and economic zones.
These are reportedly part of the $12.16-billion investments secured by the Philippines during Duterte’s visit to Beijing in April.
One of the agreements is the building of a $2-billion “smart city” to be built by Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp. on Fuga Island.
Fuga is the second northernmost island in the Philippines, and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Panelo described as “premature” the plan of Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros to investigate China’s investment in these islands.
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