IF RODY FORCES TERRITORIAL ISSUE
Even as a peaceful formula based on consultations and consensus was outlined yesterday among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China in resolving disputes over South China Sea, President Duterte said yesterday that China threatened to go to war with the Philippines.
Mr. Duterte said he asserted the country’s claim over the portions South China Sea in his recent dialog with Chinese President Xi Jinping to which the Chinese leader told him “if you force the issue, we’re going war.”
In his speech beforethe 33rd National Convention of the Philippine Coast Guard in Davao City, Mr. Duterte said he told Xi of his desire to explore oil resources over South China Sea without the need to ask permission from Beijing.
Mr. Duterte said he was stunned by the reply of Xi to him.
“President Xi told me: ‘We’re friends. I don’t want to quarrel with you and we would want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we’re going to war’,” he narrated.
“At the end of the day, when all has been said and done, no matter how you spin it, we will always return to the basic issue of sovereignty: who owns this place?” Mr. Duterte said yesterday.
“I really told him, Mr. Xi Jinping, I would insist that is ours. If you say its yours, its your view. But my view is that it is ours. My view is I can drill the oil, if there is some inside the bowels of the earth, because it is ours,” he added.
According to the President, he was dumbfounded with Mr. Xi’s answer while admitting he cannot fight China militarily.
“How do I respond to that (Xi’s statement)? I can’t go to war because we have a limited military capacity,” he added.
PCA filing wrong move — Rody
Mr. Duterte, blamed the previous administration of former President Aquino for the South China Sea conflict to reach a criticial stage.
Rushing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was a wrong move, said the President, adding that the best option was to seek a common front with the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“Instead of filing a case, the Philippine government should have called America and the rest of the Asean countries claiming a part of the vast sea there to discuss what we should do and to nip the problem in the bud,” he added.
Mr. Duterte also took a swipe at former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario who has been issuing statements lately criticizing the Duterte administration’s handling of the maritime conflict with China.
“This Del Rosario. He keeps on talking and talking. But let me ask you, when you were (Department of Foreign Affairs) secretary, why did you allow the building to blossom?” he said.
Maritime rift consultation starts
The first meeting of the China-Philippines bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea started yesterday in China.
The meeting was co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Sta. Romana.
The consultation mechanism was established this January through diplomatic consultations, Liu said in his opening remarks.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced earlier that the meeting aims to establish an institutional platform for dialogues on the South China Sea issues in accordance with consensus reached between the two countries’ leaders last October.
Simultaneously, the framework on the Code of Conduct (COC) in South China Sea to put into effect the Declaration of Conduct signed in 2002 between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been drafted yesterday.
The draft was finished Thursday night after the 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC in Guizhou, China.
DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said the draft framework will be presented to the Foreign Ministers of Asean and China at their Post-Ministerial Conference in Manila in August 2017 for their consideration.
The draft framework, which was completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the two parties, contains provisions that Asean and Chinese leaders have agreed on 15 years ago.
Bolivar said “the Philippines reaffirms its commitment to working towards an effective COC” for the disputed region.
He said the draft, which is still subject for appoval among the parties involved, cannot be released to the public yet.
“The issue of the nature of the CoC will be discussed when negotiations on the actual CoC begin - which will be held after the framework is approved by the Leaders by the November Summit in Philippines,” he added.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano expressed optimism on the actual framework.
“I’m very optimistic that we will have a good framework. And as chairman of the ASEAN, President Duterte will push that, and anti-terrorism, and law and order in relation to drugs,” he said.
No legal binds yet
Asked if the Philippines plans to push for a legally-binding COC, Cayetano said “when you say it’s legally binding, it means there is a court or tribunal where you can run to if a party is not following the agreement.”
“Definitely, it should be binding. Now, the question, if it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?”
Cayetano said “we’re trying to avoid not only war, but instability in our region.”
“So, many, many countries want it to be legally binding. But what I’m saying, let’s start with it being binding; gentlemen’s agreement; We have a community of nations that signed it,” he added.
ASEAN and China in 2002 adopted the non-binding DOC which was meant to impose principles of self-restraint and non-militarization in the strategic water where most Southeast Asian states have overlapping claims with Beijing.
Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia are claiming parts of the South China Sea, while China is claiming 90 percent of the area through the nine-dash line boundary.
“The Philippines welcomes the finalization by ASEAN and China senior officials of the draft of the framework of the Code of Conduct,” the DFA said in a statement.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and China completed the draft framework in Guiyang, Guizhou Province in Southwest China after two days of talks that ended Thursday. This is ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the leaders of ASEAN and China.
DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said ASEAN members and China agreed on the final draft of the framework, basically an outline, for the code of conduct.
“The issue of the nature of the COC will be discussed when negotiations on the actual COC begin - which is after the framework is approved by the Leaders in the November Summit in the Philippines,” he said.
Cayetano also assured that main issues will eventually form part of the consultation.
“Initially, it is really building of mutual trust. Eventually, that’s the main issue, who owns the territory, entitlements, applicable law,” he added.
China lauds Rody’s backing
A Chinese Foreign Ministry senior official has expressed appreciation to Mr. Duterte’s support for full and effective implementation of the DOC in South China Sea (DOC).
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin made this remark after he and Chee Wee Kiong, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, co-chaired the 14th China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting.
During the meeting, China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) senior officials agreed to complete the negotiations on the draft framework of the Code on Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
”We highly appreciated and thanked President Duterte for his support on the DOC implementation in its entirety and we also appreciate his support for the COC consultation,” Liu said.
”The Chinese government highly appreciate the positive, friendly and constructive position about President Duterte in the South China Sea since he took office,” Liu said.
Guided by the two leaders, Liu said China and the Philippines will continue friendly cooperation and exchange of views on the South China Sea through bilateral channels.
”We will continue to manage our differences and enhance maritime cooperation through bilateral channels,” he said.
Mr. Duterte returned to Beijing last May 14 and 15 to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. On the sidelines, President Duterte and Xi held expanded bilateral meeting.
Under the DOC guidance, the parties concerned should undertake measures to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through peaceful means, friendly consultations and negotiations, and building of trust and confidence in accordance with international laws.
The parties should also exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability in the region.
The concerned parties are also “stand ready to continue their consultations and dialogues concerning relevant issues through modalities to be agreed by them” for the purpose of promoting good relations, mutual understanding and cooperation and facilitating peaceful resolutions of disputes among them.
The Philippines-China relations hit a snag after the Philippines filed an arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in January 2013 to contest China’s ‘nine-dash line’ claim on South China Sea.
Joyce Ann L. Rocamora