The Daily Manila Shimbun


Duterte asserting right over South China Sea in “different diplomatic style”

January 27, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte is asserting its right over the South China Sea, but in a "different diplomatic style," Malacanang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella was reacting on the latest survey of Pulse Asia, showing that 84 percent of the 1,200 respondents wanted the government to uphold its rights in the South China Sea orWest Philippine Sea.

The survey was done from December 6 to 11, 2016, two months after Duterte’s state visit to China. It also found  47 percent of Filipinos agree the country’s security relations with the United States remain beneficial.

"(W)hat the President is doing is he's asserting it. But in a different diplomatic style," Abella said in a press briefing.

Quoting Duterte, he said the president is not giving up the Philippine claims in its exclusive economic zone according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"It just so happened that the Chinese government has reclaimed three of the islands there and they also have a presence in Scarborough," Abella said.

But he added, quoting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, that other countries should not make the Philippines their "proxy."

"It's because, if you remember, when the ruling was promulgated (on) July 12, we got a lot of bragging from countries around that we should forcefully assert the ruling in favor of the Philippines," he said.

Abella said the Duterte administration decided to have "soft landing" as far Chinais concerned.

"The president chose to have a bilateral talk with the Chinese government, which gave as some advantage," he added.

The relationship between the Philippinesand China soured due to disputes in theSouth China Sea in 2011.

The Philippines under the previous administration filed a petition before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal againstChina's nine-dash line, which the arbitration court declared as invalid.

But when Duterte assumed the post in June 30, he decided to put the award on the back burner and instead pursue a bilateral discussions on the matter withChina.

He embarked on a state visit to China in October last year, without mentioning the arbitral ruling.

In a forum Friday where the Pulse Asia survey was discussed, Dindo Manhit, president of the private think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute said:“The country should continue to advocate that all states, including China, must abide by the terms of that ruling.”

“All claimants should avoid any activity that could worsen tensions in the region.” Celerina Monte/DMS