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Duterte cautioned on sea row remarks

globalnation / Asia & Pacific
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Duterte cautioned on sea row remarks

/ 12:57 AM April 13, 2017

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday cautioned President Duterte about making “spur of the moment statements” that could further encourage China’s expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea.

Mr. Duterte’s “lighthearted way” of assuring China of Philippine friendship also drew  a tweet about the importance of Benham Rise from Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian .

“Spur of the moment statements should be avoided. It puts us in a poor strategic position without the benefit of flexibility, especially if there is a need to negotiate,” Del Rosario said in a statement, expressing concern about Mr. Duterte’s remarks on Monday about selling or giving away Philippine islands to China.

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Del Rosario said the statement could give the impression that “the Palace is not faithfully executing its role to defend what is ours.”

Arbitral ruling

He added that while last year’s ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines stands, Mr. Duterte’s off-the-cuff remarks pertaining to the Philippines’ territorial claims in the South China Sea “could undermine our ability and that of other nations to implement the outcome.”

“It gives our northern neighbor the political momentum to persist in its unlawful expansion agenda,” Del Rosario said, referring to China.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Gatchalian said, “What is #BenhamRise and why is it important to our country? Do you agree that it should be protected from those who want to take over it?”

He included facts about Benham Rise, a resource-rich underwater landmass off the eastern coast of Luzon that the United Nations has declared part of the Philippine continental shelf.

Gatchalian said Benham Rise was important because of its “100 percent coral cover and a diverse assemblage of marine resources;  deep-sea reef ecosystem, which is a potential source and refuge for shallow reef fish and other organisms affected by climate change; large amounts of natural gas deposits and manganese nodules.”

‘Lighthearted’ talk

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On Monday, before his departure for a three-country tour of the Middle East, Mr. Duterte affirmed the Philippines’ friendship with China and said, “Maybe when we get rich, very rich, I can sell the land to you for—you can just have it. When the specter of war is gone, there is no danger to the Philippines.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella later explained that it was just Mr. Duterte’s “lighthearted way” of telling China that the Philippines was its friend.

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TAGS: China, Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Philippine news updates, President Duterte, South China Sea
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