Duterte: ‘South China Sea Military Action to Create Further Friction
SINGAPORE – With Beijing already in possession of vast areas in the South China Sea, the United States and other countries should just accept this “reality” and avoid creating “friction” that could lead to full-scale military confrontation, President Duterte said yesterday.
“And in all of these things, China is there. That’s a reality and America and everybody should realize that they are there,” Duterte told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit here.
“So if you just keep on creating friction, little friction, one day a bad miscalculation could turn things… Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong,” he said.
He stressed military drills could spark hostilities in the region “because I said China is already in possession. It’s now in their hands.”
He said military exercises could be seen as provocation that could “prompt a response from China.”
The Chief Executive explained he was actually protecting national sovereignty in taking a more peaceful approach to dealing with China.
“I do not mind everybody going to war, except that the Philippines is just beside those islands. And if there’s a shooting there, my country will be the first to suffer,” he said.
“That’s my only – that is my only national interest there. Nothing else,” Duterte added.
As the country-coordinator of ASEAN-China dialog, Duterte reiterated he would try his best to facilitate the release of a code of conduct (COC) on South China Sea in three years.
“I will try my best. I made a very strong statement about the urgent need for a COC so that everybody will know,” he said. “Because when you claim an ocean, the whole of it, then that is a new development in today’s world,” he added.
Duterte noted there might be a need to review or even make radical changes in international laws, particularly on the right of innocent passage.
“So, any sense, it would also change – radical changes in the laws of governing international waters, particularly the right of free passage or the right of innocent passage,” he said.
Under the principle of innocent passage, vessels are allowed to pass through territorial waters of other states subject to certain restrictions.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a passage is “innocent” if it is “not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.”
Amid Duterte’s call for the US and other nations to avoid provocative actions in the South China Sea, ASEAN members reiterated the need for self-restraint in the conduct of activities in disputed waters.
“We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.
“We reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” Lee said.
Foreign affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr., who was part of the presidential delegation to Singapore, reiterated the Philippines’ strong position against giving up even an “inch or iota” of its sovereignty.
Locsin was mum on Duterte’s earlier remarks that China is already in possession of some areas not its own in the South China Sea.
Asked about reactions to ASEAN’s or Duterte’s call for restraint, Locsin said China for one did not say anything.
“But the President was very clear: Let’s exercise restraint and there was no response, which is you can interpret it as you want but it was rather bold of our President to bring it up. The use of the word restraint,” Locsin said.
Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo, for his part, welcomed the formal announcement of the designation of the Philippines as the new country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations. (www.philstar.com)
Piñol: Papua New Guinea Farms Could be Philippines’ ‘Food Security Insurance’
PORT MORESBY— The rice demonstration farm being developed by the Philippines and Papua New Guinea could serve as Manila’s “food security insurance” and could help shield Filipino consumers from price shocks, the Agriculture department said.
Last August, the Philippines sent 19 farmers to Papua New Guinea to plant rice and to train local farmers as part of a bilateral agreement on agriculture cooperation.
The planting was done in a 25-hectare demonstration farm inside the Pacific Adventist University outside Port Moresby. The leased facility was intended to become a model seed farm that could become a source of certified rice seeds.
The Filipino farmers may work under Philippine companies, which will invest on irrigation.
While Papua New Guineans would be prioritized during harvest time, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is optimistic that the farm would also contribute to the Philippines’ food security efforts. He said anything in excess of Papua New Guinea’s initial rice requirement of 400,000 metric tons could become part of the Philippines’ rice supply or exported to other island nations.
According to a report in September on the agricultural cooperation between the two countries, Papua New Guinea imports around 98 percent of the nearly 400,000 kilos of rice the country consumes each year.
It is said that only 50,000 hectares of its two million hectares of suitable agricultural lands are required to meet its rice needs.
Philippines could benefit from PNG’s 4 million hectares
“Our food security program requires a ten- to 20 year-forward planning and we’re looking at Papua New Guinea as our food security insurance. Can you imagine if we’re able to develop four million hectares here, that’s even bigger than rice area that we have right now,” Piñol said in an interview last Sunday here.
“So if our 3.9 million hectares could feed 95 percent of Filipinos right now, you can just imagine what four million hectares in Papua New Guinea would be able to contribute to our food security program,” he added.
Piñol said the farm could help the Philippines avert rice supply issues it experienced recently. He noted that rice prices become stable if there is adequate supply of the staple.
“Here (in this plan), we control the rice supply because we are the ones who planted the rice, our farmers and our corporations,” the Agriculture chief said. (www.philstar.com)
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