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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held bilateral meetings with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Brunei Sultan Bolkiah Hassanal on Sunday, November 12.
In his first meeting with Turnbull, which began around 10 pm, Duterte brought up the South China Sea dispute off the bat.
After assuring Turnbull of the strong relations between their countries, Duterte said, “We’re also concerned about what’s happening in the South China Sea, the continued build-up of military installations.”
He added that, in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the previous day, he relayed these “misgivings”.
The media were ushered out of the room before Turnbull spoke, but according to a Malacañang press release, the Prime Minister “praised” Duterte for his stance on the maritime dispute.
Australia, a former British colony in the Pacific, is deeply concerned about the economic and security implications of increased Chinese militarization in the South China Sea.
Australia is among the voices calling on Manila and Beijing to abide by the 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal nullifying China’s claim to the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea both countries are claiming.
The Marawi conflict was also a topic in the Duterte-Turnbull meeting, with the Australian leader congratulating the President on liberating the city from terrorists.
The two tackled piracy in the Sulu sea and regional trade.
Talking North Korea
In his bilateral meeting with Bolkiah, which took place around 7 pm, Duterte thanked the Sultan for coming to his country’s aid in time of calamities.
“Thank you for the extraordinary service to humanity. Thank you also for your help during moments of sadness and disaster in the Philippines,” said Duterte.
He brought up the regional security threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missile program, saying that China “holds the key in resolving” the tense situation.
Duterte thanked Bolkiah for Brunei’s fair treatment of overseas Filipino workers in his country.
On Monday, Duterte is set to have bilateral meetings with more leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. – Rappler.com