Duterte: West Philippine Sea is ours; no ifs and buts
MANILA, Philippines—”The West Philippines is ours. There is no ifs and buts.”
President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirmed this stand on Monday during his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) to answer criticisms that his administration has supposedly adopted a submissive stance on China’s expansive claims in the disputed areas.
However, Duterte also claimed that the country has to “temper” its claim in accordance with the “realities” of the maritime dispute.
“It is ours but we have been acting along that legal truth and line. But we have to temper it with the times and the realities that we face today,” he said.
The President also addressed criticisms on his verbal fishing deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which granted China access to Recto Bank in exchange of Filipinos fishermen being allowed in Scarborough Shoal.
The two areas are among the subject of Beijing and Manila’s territorial dispute for years now.
The Philippines, along with fellow Southeast Asian Nations Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, have overlapping claims to the sea along with China.
Despite an agreement to refrain from undertaking provocative actions, China has continued to expand and militarize territories that it claims in the maritime region.
Maritime peace in the disputed territories was again tested when a Chinese trawler rammed and sank a Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank, an area within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A Vietnamese boat rescued 22 Filipino fishermen who were left floating at sea.
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