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Duterte to discuss ASEAN concerns on SCS with Xi

DA NANG – In bilateral talks scheduled for tonight, President Duterte will relay to Chinese President Xi Jinping the sentiments of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toward Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea.

“And because we are friends, I’m ready to listen to China,” Duterte said at a late briefing Thursday night after meeting with members of the Filipino community here.

“But of course… I will tell him straight. You know, Mr. President, the whole of the ASEAN is worried about how we should behave in the seas that are now militarized,” Duterte said.

The President said he had to delay the original schedule of his return flight to Manila for two hours so he could meet Xi.

The Chief Executive said China’s military buildup in the South China Sea has been causing worries over possible missteps that could ignite a full-blown armed confrontation. Duterte is this year’s ASEAN chair.

“Those arms – they are not there for any other purpose. They are not decorations,” he said. “They’re there because China would need them. For what purpose, I really do not know.”

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Moreover, the Philippines also has to deal with other claimants in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

“As a matter of fact, it is being contested by five others. Six lang tayo,” he said. “It was not because of China alone. But you’d be facing a multiple action against the contestants, which are claiming overlapping jurisdictions dito sa China Sea.”

He reiterated his position against picking a fight with China just to solve the territorial dispute, citing the Philippines’ lack of military might to confront an Asian power.

As a friend of China, Duterte said he merely wanted to clarify issues as he urged the Chinese leader to speed up the ratification of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

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