We are not giving up West Philippine Sea rights – Duterte

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
We are not giving up West Philippine Sea rights â Duterte
Next stop, Mischief reef? Presidential son Sebastian Duterte rides a jet ski with a Philippine flag in Casiguran Bay off Aurora during a send-off ceremony for a team conducting maritime science research at the Philippine Rise yesterday. The younger Duterte took the place of his father who, during the 2016 campaign, vowed to ride a jet ski to the Spratlys in the South China Sea, on the other side of the archipelago, and plant a Philippine flag there.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has not given up its sovereignty rights over certain areas in the disputed South China Sea, President Duterte insisted yesterday.

Duterte made the claim even after he had discussed the matter in the past with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We are not giving up our rights in the West Philippine Sea. As a matter of fact, we are still insisting until now to the point that they are now willing…” he said during his trip off the coast of Aurora.

The President boarded BRP Davao del Sur where he led the program marking the first year of the declaration of Benham Rise as Philippine Rise.  

Duterte also declared some portions of the Philippine Rise as a marine protected area.

The President scrapped his plan to ride a jet ski around Philippine Rise.

Duterte’s son Sebastian and special assistant Bong Go represented him instead.

He said Xi gave his word that the South China Sea row would be solved in a non-confrontational manner.

“We would always find a solution to any problem,” Duterte quoted Xi as saying.

“China is offering a joint exploration and development. Xi Jingping said, ‘maybe we will have a bigger share.’ Let’s see,” the President added.

Duterte admitted that the Philippines has no capability to fight China, noting that a Navy ship like the BRP Davao del Sur will just sink once hit by a cruise missile from China.

Instead of fighting Beijing, Duterte said he would make the best out of it for the country – referring to the joint exploration with China.

Maritime science research

The President sent off yesterday a 50-man team of Filipino scientists to the Philippine Rise for a month-long maritime science research.

Defense and military officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana joined the President in boarding the Navy’s landing dock ship, BRP Davao del Sur, anchored off Casiguran Bay.

Critics questioned Duterte’s presence at Philippine Rise Bank as the area is not contested like the West Philippine Sea.

In his speech, the President said, “China claims the entire South China Sea as theirs. I can’t do anything about it anymore.”

Duterte said commercial fishing would be allowed at Philippine Rise in accordance with the laws on the preservation of marine life.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Northern Luzon Command spokesman, said members of Nolcom’s Area Task Force North would sail to the shallowest portion of Philippine Rise to set up a maritime marker in the area.

The Navy is deploying its landing dock ship, BRP Tarlac, to the region for the buoy’s casting.

The floating maritime marker would be located right over the underwater Philippine flag placed by military and civilian divers last year.

Nato said the buoy casting would immediately follow after the singing of the Philippine national anthem on the flight deck of BRP Tarlac.

A US State Department official met with Philippine counterparts yesterday to discuss claims in the South China Sea.

Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific W. Patrick Murphy and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo discussed recent events in the South China Sea as well as the ties between the Philippines and US.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Philippines has not surrendered its rights over Spratlys Island and other areas within the country’s exclusive economic zone despite China’s deployment of its first entirely home-built aircraft carrier in the area.

 “We have always been putting down our feet. We have not surrendered our title, we have not relinquished our title, we maintain we have title,” Roque said.

He defended the President’s presence at Philippine Rise in Aurora when the disputes are actually in the South China Sea.

“While we may not be able to do anything as far as their military maneuvers are concerned, we continue to resort to diplomatic initiatives and I assure you that while we are not noisy at it, any development that happens in the South China Sea is accompanied by diplomatic steps from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),” Roque said.

Roque disputed insinuations that the Duterte administration has put under the rug the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea, owing to Duterte’s shift of foreign policy toward China.     

“No. We are not doing anything, I dispute that. We are resorting to diplomatic initiatives, but this is the exemption to freedom of information. Let’s leave it to the DFA,” he said.

On Sunday, China deployed its first home-built aircraft carrier in the northern port of Dalian “to test the reliability and stability of its repulsion and other system.”

Reports said China has deployed its Navy assets to enforce its claim to the entire South China Sea.  

Since Duterte assumed office, he has maintained a non-confrontational approach in dealing with the issue of the South China Sea.

He said many times in public that the Philippines could not afford to declare war against China because of lack of defense capability.   

The President also said he is holding onto the words of Xi that no more developments will be done in the disputed areas. 

Duterte bared that he has confronted Xi about the Chinese markers for sea features in the Philippine Sea.

China asked permission from the International Hydrographic Organization-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names and the markers were in Chinese because they knew no other language, Duterte said, quoting his conversation with Xi when they met at the Boao Forum last month.

The sea features include a seamount China wants to call Jujio in Philippine Rise and other parts of the Philippine Sea. – With Jaime Laude, Pia Lee-Brago




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