IN one of his strongest statements yet against Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday slammed China’s attempts to have the entire South China Sea to themselves, and suggested in jest that the Asian giant might also want to claim other large bodies of waters.
Speaking at Camp Siongco, in Sinsuat, Maguindanao, Duterte criticized Beijing’s greed in using its “nine-dash line” to claim the entire sea.
“Where can you see that a country claims the entire sea,” Duterte told members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF]. “I want to tell them, go claim it all— including the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. Claim it.”
On Tuesday, Duterte assured US lawmakers who visited him in Malacañang that he has no plans to negotiate with China over the territorial dispute after Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay rejected China’s offer to pursue bilateral talks on the condition that the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines be set aside.
Duterte however, said he was considering sending a special envoy to China, former President Fidel Ramos or former Interior secretary Rafael Alunan, should Ramos beg off.
The two are scheduled to meet Saturday in Malacañang to discuss the country’s next move after the Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China’s nine-dash line claims.
Duterte blasted Beijing for pursuing its excessive sea claims, even at the cost of other claimant countries’ territorial rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He said China, by pursuing its aggressive territorial claims, was depriving the country of its exclusive economic zone.
On Friday, Yasay said he will seek a unified Association of Southeast Asian Nations stand on the ruling of the PCA before the Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in Laos.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Yasay is now in Laos to attend the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers meeting and related meetings to be held from July 23 to 26, where he is expected to raise the South China Sea disputes and the need for parties to abide by the PCA ruling on July 12.
Before leaving for Laos, Yasay expressed confidence that the Asean will support the international tribunal’s decision and will abide by international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.
Yasay had earlier called on Asean members to issue a statement supporting the PCA decision since four of its members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia—are claimants to waters of the South China Sea. Other Asean members include Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia. With Vito Barcelo
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