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Why China should not belittle Duterte’s hand of friendship

Why China should not belittle Duterte’s hand of friendship
Tim Collard 10 April 2019

If nothing happens with the negotiations, “what’s the next step?”, he said.

“We are a member of the and there are cases where certain issues, which affect humanity, are raised in the General Assembly, then the General Assembly makes a unified action. Maybe that’s the next step,” he said.

Since the international maritime tribunal’s ruling, which came in the early days of Duterte’s presidency, the Philippines’ leader has shelved the country’s sovereignty claims over certain geographical features in the South China Sea, including Thitu Island, in favour of forging stronger ties with Beijing. Instead, Duterte has sought Chinese support to fund his “build, build, build programme”, while trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

During that time, China has rapidly turned Philippine-claimed reefs into artificial islands with military facilities.

Panelo’s comments on Tuesday came during a roller coaster week for the (??? ST)

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs filed a rare diplomatic protest on the massing of Chinese vessels around Thitu Island on Monday. Days later, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and Philippines foreign affairs assistant secretary Meynardo LB. Montealegre held bilateral talks in Manila over “recent developments and actions” in the conflict area.

Duterte on Thursday described Beijing as “my friend”, but then warned it to “lay off” the disputed island.

“I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you that lay off the Pagasa because I have soldiers there. If you touch it, that’s a different story. I will tell the soldiers,” Duterte said in a speech, using the local name for Thitu.

Panelo was careful to couch his comments about taking the dispute to the UN, saying it was only his personal opinion and “for the president to decide”, and that former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario had earlier urged the government to do the same, who helped pursue the successful 2016 arbitration, said the country could count on “many friends and allies who were waiting to see what we are going to do with this”.

“We have, for example, the United Nations General Assembly. We can bring the case to the General Assembly and seek a solution from them,” he said.

Retired Philippine UN envoy Lauro Baja agreed, but conceded the Philippines “may be very late” or “too late” to seek a resolution.

“Other UN members might wonder why Manila is only raising the matter after two years,” he said. But it may still be worth a shot, he said.

“First, we have to find an existing item in the UN agenda in which we could bring the matter. If there is no existing item, then on our own, we could submit a concept paper and request that this matter be discussed as an additional agenda item of whatever assembly session – this year or next year,” he said.

Baja, who served as president of the UN Security Council twice, explained that while the General Assembly has no police powers, formally bringing the arbitral victory to the attention of UN members could help lobby support for Manila’s case.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs’ protest described China’s recent encroachment in the South China Sea as “a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction”.

see also - It’s Time for a New Philippine Strategy Toward China-