MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may not bring up issues related to the West Philippine Sea during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos, but he intends to bring them up in bilateral talks or private talks with Chinese officials on the sidelines of the gathering.
"It is timely that I am going to Laos to attend the ASEAN [Summit]. There will be time, there’s gonna be a one-on-one with China and the Unites States, and Russia," said Duterte during a press conference on Friday, September 2, in Panabo City.
In this way, he revealed that he would be having bilateral talks with China. Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced possible bilateral talks with the United States, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Laos.
Duterte said he would also bring up new reported construction activities in Scarborough Shoal and the fishing rights of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea.
"But in my making the private talks, magtsika-tsika lang kami (we will have a chat). I’d like him, the Ambassador, to just answer the one question: Is there any ongoing construction for expansion in the South China Sea? And whether or not we can still have the fishing rights, which is really the entitlement of our country having won the arbitral proceedings," said Duterte.
The President, who previously called on Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua to consider the plight of Filipino fishermen, said he expects a "favorable" answer from China.
"I should be expecting a favorable answer when I get to Laos," he said.
China President Xi Jinping is not expected to attend the ASEAN Summit. The highest Chinese official expected to attend is Premier of the State Council Li Kequiang, according to Foreign Assistant Secretary Hellen Dela Vega.
The ruling, granted by an international arbitration court, nullifies China's claims over the West Philippine Sea and condemned its reclamation activities there.
But China refuses to acknowledge the ruling and says it will reject bilateral talks based on the ruling.
Duterte said the ASEAN Summit would be his opportunity to assure the region and its allies of the Philippines' commitment to international obligations and to raise the issue of trasnational crime, including drug trafficking. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.