âDuterte UN speech opens more discussions on sea rowâ
Presidential assistant for foreign affairs and protocol chief Robert Borje said President Rodrigo Duterte was “signaling that the doors of engagement (are) becoming wider now, not just with China but with other stakeholders in the South China Sea.”
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‘Duterte UN speech opens more discussions on sea row’
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly has opened more discussions with all parties in the South China Sea row, an official said yesterday.

Presidential assistant for foreign affairs and protocol chief Robert Borje said Duterte was “signaling that the doors of engagement (are) becoming wider now, not just with China but with other stakeholders in the South China Sea.”

“The intended outcome of the President’s speech is to signal the call for deeper engagement and broader engagement by the Philippines with all the partners around the world on several key points. It’s important to note that the South China Sea issue is one of them but also the issue of geopolitical developments in Asia-Pacific and other parts of the world,” Borje told CNN Philippines.

In 2016, an arbitral court based in The Hague declared that China’s maritime claim in the resource-rich South China Sea has no legal basis and affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone. China, which claims about 90 percent of the busy sealane, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Late last month, Duterte, who has been accused of being too soft on the maritime dispute, said the Philippines would not allow efforts to undermine the arbitral ruling, saying it is “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”

The address drew praise even from administration critics, including former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who has been urging the President to rally international support to enforce the arbitral decision.

Asked whether the government would heed Del Rosario’s appeal, Borje replied: “Framing it that way, ‘heeding the call’ assumes there’s only one stakeholder that’s involved in this.”

“The fact of the matter is, the government is continuously involved in stakeholder coordination and consultation within the government of the Philippines already,” he added.

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