MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte promised the West Philippine Sea dispute will be discussed during the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Thailand.
In a speech in Davao City on Friday, Duterte said he is set to discuss with his fellow Southeast Asian leaders the expansive claims of China in the South China Sea.
“Is it correct for China to declare ownership of an ocean? I am posing this question. Can you claim a whole ocean? Because nobody can prevent America from claiming a third of the Pacific Ocean,” Duterte said.
“I will talk lengthily about it dito sa ASEAN. It’s not a matter of ‘yung nine-dash line. Simple lang. Can you claim an ocean as your own? Tell me now because I will also claim mine,” he added.
The Hague, in July, 2016, recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
However, China refused to recognize the ruling and has built artificial islands there, prohibited Filipino fishermen from fishing, and interfered in petroleum exploration.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants include Taiwan and ASEAN member-states Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The Philippines is currently the dialogue coordinator between China and ASEAN on negotiations for a South China Sea Code of Conduct, which aims to prevent conflicting territorial claims from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict./PN