Duterte seeks int’l support for sustainable, peaceful use of seas
BEIJING — President Rodrigo Duterte has sought international support for “sustainable and peaceful” use of oceans and seas “in accordance with international law” — a prelude to a plan of his administration to declare parts of the West Philippine Sea as a marine sanctuary.
“As an archipelagic state, the Philippines seeks to improve our collective capacity to manage and protect marine resources,” the President said on Saturday afternoon at a leaders’ roundtable during the Belt and Road Forum. He spoke in a session that focused on green and sustainable development.
“As channels of transportation and communication, and a vital source of sustenance and livelihood, our oceans and seas connect and sustain us. It is thus our collective duty to promote their sustainable and peaceful use in accordance with international law,” he said.
In an interview earlier on Saturday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Malacañang was studying the declaration of the West Philippine Sea as a “marine-protected” area, similar to what was done for a portion of Benham Rise in 2018.
China, the host of the Belt and Road Forum, is a rival maritime claimant in the West Philippine Sea but an earlier bilateral meeting between President Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping affirmed the willingness of both countries to work together in other areas while continuing to address their differences in territorial claims through diplomatic channels.
President Duterte, who is implementing an aggressive infrastructure-building program, said China’s Belt and Road Forum presented an opportunity to explore avenues of mutually beneficial partnerships for inclusive sustainable development.
He reported that 75 big-ticket infrastructure projects worth $41.6 billion dollars would be implemented by the Philippines in the medium-term.
“Our goal is to promote new growth centers outside the already congested urban-industrial region surrounding Metropolitan Manila. This will create more job opportunities for our people,” he said.
For its part, China has supported a number of big-ticket infrastructure projects in the Philippines since President Duterte came to power in 2016.
“We also aim to enhance cooperation in green technology. That is why we want to accelerate our transition to low-carbon development pathways,” the President said. “We will also ensure our infrastructure systems should be clean and green. We will strengthen our policy framework for green financing in order to attract investments in renewable energy.”
Noting that agriculture is an important driver of growth, he said said he would welcome economic investments that would help the Philippines improve its economic productivity with the entry of relevant production and post-harvest technologies.
The President stated that the Philippines, along with the rest of Asia, was “on the path of economic resurgence.”
“The Philippines in particular is set to join the ranks of upper middle-income countries as it is projected to become the 25th largest economy in the world in PPP (purchasing power parity) terms,” he said.
By 2020, the President projected that the combined economies of Asian countries would be larger than that of the rest of the world.
“Asia’s future is indeed promising, but this is not preordained. For our region to remain an economic powerhouse, for us to be there, growth and prosperity must be inclusive, equitable, and sustainable,” he said.
The Philippines’ ultimate goal is to provide a comfortable and secure life to all law-abiding citizens in a country that is stable, peaceful, and resilient, he said.
“My government will do all that is necessary to realize this vision. We will build strong partnerships with like-minded states, multilateral institutions, and other stakeholders that share our vision,” he said.
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