Duterte defends friendship with China
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 23, 2018 - 7:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — After setting aside a landmark ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal on the disputed South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte justified the country's renewed ties with Beijing.

In his third State of the Nation Address, the president highlighted the fruits of the Philippines' "reenegized" relations with China, such as cooperation on combatting transnational crimes.

"Our shared intelligence led to the discovery and dismantling of the clandestine shabu laboratories and the arrest of Chinese chemists with the dragon organization called Wu syndicate," Duterte said in his speech.

Duterte, however, maintained the country's commitment to the West Philippine Sea despite its new-found friendhip with China.

Beijing had refused to acknowledge the July 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

Hence, the Philippines and China opted to hold bilateral dialogue to settle the maritime dispute.

"This is why we engage with China through the bilateral multilateral platform such as the ASEAN-China and the Philippines-China bilateral consultation mechanism," he said.

Duterte claimed that Filipino fishermen's renewed access to disputed areas could be credited to "opening lines of communication" with China.

"Participation in the ASEAN-China dialogue has also resulted to the draft framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which intends to resolve disputes by peaceful means," Duterte said.

Filipino fishermen, however, continue to experience harassment from Chinese Coast Guard personnel as recently reported by GMA News.

Local fishermen revealed that Chinese Coast Guard personnel have been taking away their catch in the Scarborough Shoal in exchange of noodles, cigarettes and water. The fishermen appealed to the Philippine government to address the "barter" trade in the traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, defended its coast guards and insisted that they had always acted "in accordance with the law."

“As to whether the situation mentioned by the media exists or not, the Chinese side is now conducting an investigation seriously. If what the Philippine side claimed is true, I believe relevant Chinese departments will handle that in a serious manner," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

DUTERTE SONA 2018 PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES RODRIGO DUTERTE SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPIN SEA XI JINGPING
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