Philippines’ Duterte says pointless discussing South China Sea woes at summit

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to visiting Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah during a meeting at the presidential palace ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila, Philippines April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Martin Petty | MANILA Thu Apr 27, 2017 | 7:18am EDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday it was pointless discussing Beijing’s contentious activities in the South China Sea at this week’s Southeast Asian summit, and no one dared to pressure China anyway.

The no-nonsense former mayor scoffed at questions from reporters about whether China’s rapid reclamation of uninhabited reefs or enforcement of an international arbitration ruling last year would be brought up with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday.

“Who will dare pressure?” he said. “Who can pressure China? Us?”

Asked how ASEAN should deal with China, Duterte said dialogue was the only option.

“The way we’re doing, talking – that’s the only luxury we have,” he said.

“Action? Tell us how. Tell me. Educate me how.”

The Philippines is hosting meetings of ASEAN this year. The bloc will adopt a softer than usual tone about South China Sea disputes and exclude references to militarization or island-building, according to a draft of the chairman’s statement.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The Philippines’ chairing of ASEAN comes amid a charm offensive by Duterte, who has opted to court China for its business and investment and avoid rows over sovereignty that dogged his predecessors.

Duterte has been accused by critics of taking a defeatist position on China and on defending Philippine sovereignty. He considers his approach is pragmatic and says challenging China risks triggering a war.

The previous government in 2013 filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to set the record straight on maritime boundaries. The tribunal did that last year, and invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

Duterte, who has put the ruling on the back burner and said he will revisit it later in his term, said it was a waste of time for ASEAN to discuss that award now, and it was not relevant.


“Arbitral is simply entitlement. It’s not even a territorial thing. The only question at arbitral was entitlement, not jurisdiction, not even territory,” he said.

“How will you raise the issue? …. We cannot on our own enforce the arbitral judgment.”

He added: “Before, China said we will not honour (it), so why will you force (them) to honour? You’re just looking for trouble. Can we go to war?”

The Philippines is determined to agree a framework for a China-ASEAN code of conduct on the South China Sea during its chairmanship, though there is some scepticism about why it has China’s support now, 15 years after the idea of drafting a code was agreed.

Critics and some diplomats see China’s compliance as a stalling tactic to show it was engaging in diplomacy, while buying time to expand and fortify its presence in the Spratly archipelago.

Asked about China’s sincerity towards completing the code, Duterte said tensions at sea were the fault of the United States.

“Here’s how it is. They (China) really claim it as their own, even a long time ago,” he said. “The issue hasn’t really exploded until the Americans made it to be.”

The mercurial leader said the issue of piracy would be raised during the summit, but his position was clear.

“If any ship of any country of the ASEAN or any ship of that matter, in dealing with piracy, my order is just to blow them up,” he said. “Why should I arrest them?”

He was also asked his view on the rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, an issue likely to be discussed by ASEAN.

“My reaction is kindly, kindly use your patience,” he said. “It would be as good as any other time to advise now, people, just go easy.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “Philippines’ Duterte says pointless discussing South China Sea woes at summit”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


3 Comments on “Philippines’ Duterte says pointless discussing South China Sea woes at summit”

  1. Joseph says:

    It is true that China claimed the SCS even long time ago. It was the Chinese who in fact mapped the entire area during Imperial time. And the region knows that China will defend its claim vehemently, as proven by two Vietnamese doomed expedition in 1974 and 1988. Ironic that the American was completely in China’s side in 1988 by denouncing Vietnam as a rogue nation similar to present day North Korea. It is the fact that the issue has not really exploded until the American made it to be. Even before Obama set Aquino loose like a dog againts China, Aquino was in a very cordial mood with China, pursuing Chinese investment on Philippines. Even now, as people in the region have considered the SCS/American pivot to Asia is closed and burried, American VP Mike Pence would try to bring up the matter to life again to Indonesia during his brief visit to Indonesia on board the USS Carl Vinson, which was supposed to be on North Korea, making himself looking like a mumbling clown as Indonesian president Jokowi gave impression of ‘did you just say somethin’?’. Just like North Korea, in which Donald Trump was talking big of invading and ending up begging China for help and begging the UN for sanctions, what the American can do is talking big of invasion, while pleading to Duterte to keep the issue alive, eventhough the man clearly shows no interest whatsoever.


  2. anonymous says:

    “Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a way of resolving disputes outside the courts. Litigation can be expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable.[1] With arbitration the parties to a dispute agree to have the disagreement decided by a neutral third party.[2] More often this is a panel of three arbitrators. Each party suggests one, then both arbitrators agree on a third arbitrator.[1] The decision is the result of a majority vote.[1]

    “Entitlement” is too narrow an interpretation. Abitration can cover disputes beyond contracts and agreements. Territories too. It is just common sense and goodwill based on facts and reasonableness.

    But the key here is “agreement” by both parties to allow the dispute to go for abitration. Which is not the case here with Philippines and China. Without consent of both parties, there can be no arbitration.

    You can’t believe what Washington asserts. If one believes the BS they spout such as that it is legally binding when there is no “arbitration” in the first place, one is gullible.

    Moreover, the PCA is not a “Court” even if it has the audacity to call itself a “court” and “permanent”. And even as a Tribunal it is not under the UN. So for all intents and purposes, it has no legal jurisdiction. So if anyone believes the nonsense peddled by Obama, his Administration, the U.S. newspapers, TV channels, American NGOs and think tanks, well, I have got a bridge to sell.

    And if the case was so solid that China is doing wrong, why not take the case to the International Court of Justice which is under the UN and is also located in the Hague?

    Singapore and Malaysia took their dispute over the Pedra Branca (Batu Puteh) case to the ICJ. Malaysia and Indonesia took the dispute of ownership of Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan also to the ICJ. Both were settled satisfactorily.

    The question here is why was the case taken to the “PCS” and not the ICJ? Sounds more like a kangaroo court if you ask me, the sole purpose of which was to falsely find China “guilty” and hang it. a political move based on deception.


  3. Steve says:

    Actually, this is the best wording I heard so far on the PCA arbitration:- “Arbitral is simply an entitlement, it’s not even a territorial thing. The only question at arbitral was entitlement, not jurisdiction, not even territory.”

    The PCA award is legally binding, but not enforceable and only by war will determine the historical entitlement to China’s favour. It’s a shame Aquino paid 30 million dollars or more for this comical arbitration supported by the scoundrels – USA.