Duterte 'to carry voice of ASEAN' vs China militarization

Christina Mendez - Philstar.com

DA NANG—President Rodrigo Duterte will raise the concerns of the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the reclamation and militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.

"I am chair of ASEAN and I have to carry the voice of the ASEAN [...] I have to tell the truth that everybody is worried,” Duterte said in a press briefing Thursday night after meeting with the Filipino community.

“It is not wrong for me to tell China that you have already placed heavy artillery there. It [makes] us worried and wary because we are also using the passage,” he said.

Duterte said he will raise the issue when he meets with Xi during a bilateral meeting on Saturday night, at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

"China must realize that even if we’re friends, everybody is insisting on what rights do they have in the passage of the China Sea, including us," he said.

Duterte said he has to put forward the interests of the claimant countries, which include Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei Darrusalam as chairman of the ASEAN.

China claims a large portion of the South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled in 2016 that China has no basis over its claim throughout the resource-rich region.

Duterte said he will press China to act on the ratification of a Code of Conduct on the West Philippine Sea as Beijing moves to fortify disputed islands in the area.

"China who is there, who controls the passage must come up with a code of conduct. Kasi ‘yung build up, he does not allow it. Siya lang [pwede]," Duterte said.

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