Published: Sun, November 12, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

Duterte bound to raise sea disputes with Xi

Duterte bound to raise sea disputes with Xi

"We tried to put some structures (on) one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted", Lorenzana told a regional security forum.

Duterte relayed this in a news briefing upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport past midnight Sunday, November 12, where he reported on the results of his participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam. "The Philippines did not violate the Declaration of Conduct", Alejano said.

South China Sea issues are expected to top the agenda.

China claims most of the strategically vital sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes, and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits. He has refused to immediately take up with China a ruling by a United Nations -linked tribunal that invalidated Beijing's sprawling claims in the South China Sea, sparking criticism from nationalists and left-wing groups, which wanted him to demand immediate Chinese compliance with the landmark decision.

Four Asean member-countries are claiming parts of the disputed waters: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Beijing has previously utilized dredgers to create seven fortified islands - some of which now house airfields, missile bases and radar systems - in the global waterway.

The Philippine president claimed Xi expressed surprise over his stronger and more assertive tone in discussing the maritime dispute.

A United Nations-backed tribunal ruled past year that China's territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

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While the Philippines' ties with China have improved under Duterte's watch, Xi has maintained that it would not accept hostile approach on how the sea row should be resolved. The nearest sandbar in Sandy Cay is about 4.6 kilometers from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

The sandbars are likely "naturally occurring" and appear or disappear above high tide at certain periods, Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines' Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea told reporters.

The new dredger, now conducting patrols, is more powerful than previous ones used in the South China Sea, noted Bonnie Glaser, senior Asia advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We did not occupy it but some of our fishermen would like to establish a shelter there".

The recently-concluded 19th CPC National Congress has offered new guidance and arrangements for the Chinese people to achieve their two centenary goals, namely building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centenary of the CPC, which was established in 1921, and building a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by the middle of the 21st century in time for the centenary of the people's Republic of China, as well as for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the Chinese ambassador said.

He said the sandbars were now empty and that Manila was not anxious China would occupy them in turn. "We are constantly monitoring the movement of the ship". Their troops could confront ours.

"I was talking about the military build-up. Now if there's a mis-encounter, misunderstanding or miscalculation it could result into violence", Lorenzana said.

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