MANILA, Philippines – During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, President Rodrigo Duterte wants to ask China to explain what it “really wants” to do in the West Philippine Sea.
“It’s about time that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries – not really to confront – but to make clear to us what China really wants,” he said on Wednesday, November 8, before flying to Vietnam for the summit.
Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Duterte said, “I’ll just ask him, ‘What are the stakes? Do you want to control the passage or do we have the free passage?'”
“Unbridled, undisturbed, unmolested [passage] while we use that small way from the Indian ocean, the Indo-China Pacific which is facing Palawan,” he continued.
The Philippine leader said he would bring up the issue either in a bilateral meeting or during a plenary session.
“I should be bringing this important matter to the surface so that we will know when can we be safe in traveling the expanse because they have claimed it now,” said Duterte.
But he emphasized that he will avoid a confrontation since it would stir up trouble, given the other claimants to parts of the West Philippine Sea – Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
“The truth is, if I could only confront China or if it is China alone there is no problem but I said there are contesting countries which [have] overlapping jurisdiction,” said Duterte.
On Tuesday, November 7, Duterte said he would be “frank” with Xi when he broaches the topic of the maritime dispute in their meeting.
He said he is hopeful Xi will “honor” his supposed vow not to reclaim land in Scarborough Shoal. (READ: PH aborts construction on Pag-asa sandbar after China protest) – Rappler.com