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Duterte to raise WPS issue with Xi in 5th visit

August 23, 2019 - Friday 3:08 AM by Agence France Presse

Article Banner Image PRESSING ISSUES. President Rodrigo Duterte said he would press Chinese President Xi Jinping to conclude long-running talks with neighboring countries that also have claims to the disputed sea on rules for avoiding accidental clashes. File photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday that Duterte has ordered all foreign vessels passing through Philippine waters to seek Manila's advance approval.

MANILA | AFP | -- President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping next week to raise their conflicting claims to the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea.

While Duterte has embraced China and had largely set aside a once-tense standoff over the resource-rich waterway, a series of confrontations have stoked domestic discontent. 

Duterte heads to China on August 28 for his fifth trip to that country as President, and is due to return to the Philippines on September 2, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told journalists on Tuesday.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to Philippine shores, and has ignored a 2016 international tribunal ruling that declared their assertion as without basis. 

Duterte had earlier this month mentioned the trip, where he said he intended to finally discuss the ruling with Xi.

"I have about two more years, plus months left (in office). It's about time that we start talking," said Duterte at the time.

He also said he would press Beijing to conclude long-running talks with neighboring countries that also have claims to the disputed sea on rules for avoiding accidental clashes.

The visit marks a turnaround for Duterte, who had revived once-icy diplomatic ties with Beijing after being elected in 2016 when he set aside the maritime ruling in favour of wooing Chinese aid, trade and investment.

Duterte enjoys firm popular backing, but he has faced criticism at home over his stance that confronting China is futile and will only lead to an unwinnable war.

The issue has flared up since a Chinese fishing trawler hit and sank a Filipino boat in Recto Bank in June, sparking a string of small street protests and criticism from opposition politicians and former officials.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also complained earlier this month about repeated unauthorised passage by Chinese warships through Philippine territorial waters between February and July.

Panelo said on Tuesday that Duterte has ordered all foreign vessels passing through Philippine waters to seek Manila's advance approval.

This is "to avoid misunderstanding in the future," Panelo said, adding this was in response to the "repeated passing through without our being notified by some foreign vessels -- well, particularly Chinese warships".

"Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner," Panelo added.

In statement earlier this month, Panelo said Duterte wants to invoke the country’s Hague ruling victory when he visits China this month for the fifth time in his term.

Panelo also gave assurance that the Recto Bank incident will be one of the agenda.

“Kasama iyon (Recto Bank incident). China eh. In other words, lahat ng issues ng China, kasama iyon. Ang alam ko one of them is the 60-40. Tsaka siyempre maresolve na 'yung incident sa Recto Bank -- kung sino ang responsible doon, ano ba ang compensation doon,” he said.

(The Recto Bank incident will be included. In other words, all the issues with China will be discussed, including that. I know that one of the issues is the 60-40 sharing. And of course to resolve the Recto Bank incident -- who was responsible, and what the compensation should be.)

It was President Duterte who had earlier suggested the 60-40 sharing arrangement with China on joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea. 

Panelo said since the arrangement is proposed to be 60 for the Philippines and 40 for China, the Philippines will always have the advantage. Agence France-Presse

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