Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte assured US lawmakers Wednesday that he has no plans to negotiate with China over their territorial dispute in the South China Sea even as former President Fidel Ramos said he will meet with the President over the weekend to discuss his role as presidential troubleshooter for talks with Beijing.
Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy took to the social networking site Twitter on late Tuesday night to share Duterte’s position on the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision upholding the country’s case against China.
“In Manila—just out of meeting with new Philippines President Duterte. Assured us he has no plans to negotiate with China over islands dispute,” Murphy wrote in a tweet.
“We were first US elected officials to meet with Duterte. Says he will not trade territorial rights to China. Tribunal decision non-negotiable,” he added.
A US congressional delegation made a courtesy visit to the President Wednesday at Malacañang Palace. The delegation included Senator Brian Schatz, Congressman Ted Deutch, Congressman John Garamendi, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and the outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez were also present at the meeting.
The Palace on Wednesday said the government is pursuing a “diplomatic path” in handling the decision, adding that the government will engage China in compliance with the laws.
Ramos, meanwhile, said that he will meet with Duterte over the weekend to discuss the country’s bilateral relations with China, saying that he is willing to accept Duterte’s offer as long as he gets a medical clearance from his doctors.
The administration should have a team fluent in Mandarin when they draft the Philippines’ contingency measures when engaging with China, he said.
“The important thing that must be settled is the Philippines and China bilateral talks. Do we continue or don’t we?,” Ramos said in a media forum.
“If we continue, am I still part of it or is there a new course of action? Third, do we have a plan A, B, or C? With that, you must have all contingencies for which you must be prepared,” he added.
Duterte asked Ramos, president from 1992 to 1998, to be the country’s special envoy to Beijing on July 14, two days after the release of the decision of the international arbitration tribunal favoring the Philippines in the case it filed against China in 2013.
Yasay on Wednesday said US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Manila next week to meet with the President to strengthen ties between Manila and Washington.
“Secretary Kerry will visit Manila, Philippines, from July 26-27, where he will meet with President Rodrigo Duterte and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay to discuss the full range of our cooperation with the new administration,” Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said in a press statement Wednesday.
Kerry will make his visit after Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Monday.
Before arriving in Manila, Kerry will travel to Vientiane, Laos, from July 25-26 to participate in the Asean Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting, the Asean-US Ministerial Meeting, and the Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting.
Also on Wednesday, Malacañang said the government is pursuing a “diplomatic path” in its talks with Beijing over their territorial dispute.
“The Philippines continues along a diplomatic path to fully realize the EEZ rights granted by the Arbitration Court—engaging in bilateral talks to find mutually acceptable arrangements… We consider our sovereign economic rights, granted by the law of nations to be non-negotiable,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
In Taiwan, lawmakers and fishermen were heading to an island in the disputed South China Sea Wednesday to protest an international tribunal ruling that undermined Taipei’s claims there.
Eight lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Kuomintang (KMT) boarded a military plane early Wednesday to the Taiwan-controlled Taiping island in the Spratly island chain.
Later Wednesday, five fishing boats were also set to sail to Taiping from southern Pingtung county over the perceived threat to fishermen’s livelihoods. Those boats will arrive in five days.
The protests come after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled last Tuesday that China has no historic rights to its claimed “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the exclusive economic zone.
Crucially for Taipei, it ruled that Taiwan-administered Taiping, the largest island in the Spratlys chain, was legally a “rock” that did not give it an exclusive economic zone, undermining Taiwanese claims to waters surrounding the island.
Taiwan last week sent a warship to the South China Sea “to defend maritime territory,” with President Tsai Ing-wen rallying troops on the deck of the frigate a day after the ruling.
“The ruling is absolutely unacceptable. It is necessary for us to visit Taiping at this time to show the international community that it is an island, not a rock,” said KMT lawmaker Johnny Chiang who is heading the protest visit.
The lawmakers will watch a display of combat skills by the coastguard stationed on Taiping as well as facilities that show the island is self-sufficient.
Taiwan last year inaugurated a solar-powered lighthouse, an expanded airstrip and a pier, as part of efforts to strengthen defence capabilities on Taiping.
There is also a farm, water well, hospital and temple on the island.
Taiping island is 0.51 square kilometers and most of its inhabitants work for the coastguard, which has about 160 staff there.
Each year about 200 fishing boats operate in the waters near Taiping island.
“Taiwanese fishing boats could easily be caught by the other claimants in the region once they sail to that area,” said Tsai Pao-hsin, chief secretary of Liuqiu District Fishermen Association in Pingtung.
“If it wasn’t to protect our livelihood, no fishermen would spend money and time to sail there to protest.”
The Spratlys are also claimed in part or whole by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Taiwan’s government rejected The Hague’s ruling, saying it “severely jeopardized” Taiwan’s rights and has no legally binding force since the tribunal did not formally invite Taipei to participate in its proceedings or solicit its views.
Taiwanese authorities have said they would continue to send aircraft and ships for patrol missions to the region and expel any foreign boats that come into its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone despite the ruling.
- China threatens to impose air defence identification zone in South China Sea (chinadailymail.com)
- Malaysia joins the stand against China in South China Sea dispute (chinadailymail.com)
- What the Pentagon thinks of China’s military (chinadailymail.com)
- Indonesia will defend against China in the South China Sea using F-16 fighter jets (chinadailymail.com)
- Why the US may go to war in the South China Sea (chinadailymail.com)
- Indonesia set to upgrade military base in islands perched on edge of South China Sea (japantimes.co.jp)
- Indonesia to upgrade military near S. China Sea (english.kyodonews.jp)
- The Day After: The Fallout From the Philippines Arbitration Case Against China (nationalinterest.org)
- China angry at Japan’s ‘meddling’ in South China Sea (globalnation.inquirer.net)
- China to Become ‘Outlaw State’ if it Rejects Arbitration Court Ruling to be Handed Down on July 12 (chinatopix.com)