Palace: Duterte pressing maritime claim, but in ‘diplomatic style’
President Rodrigo Duterte has been asserting the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea, and has just been using a different “diplomatic style,” Malacañang said on Friday.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella noted that, after the country scored a victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration when it invalidated Beijing’s claim to nearly the whole of the South China Sea, many started urging the Philippines to “forcefully” assert the ruling.
But Duterte chose a “soft landing” and initiated bilateral talks with China, which gave the Philippines some advantage, Abella said.
“In other words, what the President is doing is asserting it, but in a different diplomatic style,” he said in a news briefing.
He also pointed out that Duterte had already said he would not give up the Philippines’ claims over its exclusive economic zone according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Since assuming office, Duterte has been mending the Philippines’ ties with China, which became strained when President Beningo Aquino III hauled it to the arbitral tribunal following its seizure of Scarborough Shoal.
China refused to participate in the case and continues to ignore the ruling.
But it has responded to Duterte’s overtures by promising billions of dollars of financial assistance to the Philippines.
Filipino fisherfolk have also been able to return to the area around the Scarborough Shoal without being harassed by the Chinese coast guard, so far.
But China’s military build up in disputed areas continue, according to reports. /ATM
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