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PRESIDENT OFF TO BELT AND ROAD FORUM

Hontiveros dares Duterte: Raise China vessels issue with Xi

07:25 AM April 24, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — “Can the President stand up to China’s interests” when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week? Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked in a text message on Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte must bring up the presence of Chinese vessels around Philippine-held Pag-asa Island, Hontiveros said.

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He “must use the visit as an opportunity to display diplomatic bravery, using our victory at The Hague as a fundamental guidepost to defend Philippine sovereignty,” she added.

Belt and Road forum

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The President flies to Beijing on Wednesday to attend the Belt and Road forum and will get to meet Chinese leaders during his stay.

His spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, earlier said the President might bring up the presence of the Chinese vessels since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already filed a diplomatic protest about the matter.

The DFA said the presence of the Chinese boats, believed to be militia, was “illegal” and “a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction as defined under international law.”

As the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, he is “duty bound to represent the collective and patriotic voice of the Filipino people regarding China’s continuing incursions into Philippine territories,” she said.

“Anything short of that is timidity,” she added.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has been lambasting China for allowing since January nearly 300 of its vessels to “swarm” on Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, which has been settled by Filipino civilians.

Gibing US

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Locsin did not spare the United States from his gibes.

In a tweet on Tuesday, he questioned the effectiveness of deploying US ships and aircraft to the South China Sea in deterring further Chinese expansion.

“Fonops or freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea will be like walks past the cages in a zoo: total freedom for the passing American to look at the animals behind bars,” Locsin said. “It is either old style American hegemony in Asia which ensured sovereignty, or forget it,” he added. —Reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Dona Z. Pazzibugan

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TAGS: DFA, Maritime Dispute, PH-China Relations, Risa Hontiveros, Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, Teodoro Locsin Jr., West Philippine Sea
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