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MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said in front of military officials he would be “glad” if China were to send Coast Guard ships to patrol international waters.
“I also asked China, if they can patrol the international waters without necessarily intruding into the territorial waters. We would be glad for their presence there,” said Duterte on Tuesday, January 31.
He was speaking at the oath-taking ceremony of new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers.
“‘Di naman kailangan gray ships, maski yung Coast Guard cutter (Doesn’t have to be gray ships, even just a Coast Guard cutter) just to patrol like what they did in Somalia. Tumulong sila (They helped),” said Duterte.
The President was apparently referring to China sending ships to protect trade routes from Somalian pirates.
He said such ships are needed to protect trade routes in Southeast Asia, given the threat of terrorists and pirates roaming the seas.
If such groups succeed in blocking off trade routes, it would jack up costs of goods and services.
“But here in the Malacca Strait and here in the Sulu Sea, [it] remains to be a big problem. And if they are blocked, either they go up to the North and if they’re headed for Mexico, down south, or they pass nearby, which would mean higher costs, higher rate, higher insurance, it adds up to the goods and the services there,” said Duterte.
West PH Sea resources
China and the United States have been competing to establish a more dominant presence in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The expanse of water is one of the most important trade routes in the world with at least $5 trillion in commercial goods passing through it every year.
It is also thought to have large oil and gas reserves – 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the US Department of Energy.
In 2016, the Philippines won against China when an international court in the Hague affirmed the Philippines’ claim over parts of the West Philippine Sea.
China, which is claiming 90% of the sea, continues to ignore the ruling.
Duterte is taking his time before asserting the ruling, opting to first strengthen diplomatic and economic ties with Beijing.
During Duterte’s state visit to China in October 2016, the Philippine and Chinese coast guards agreed to cooperate. – Rappler.com