President Rodrigo Duterte is “moving a giant step forward” in trying to settle the maritime dispute in Southeast Asia as he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping this May.
“Right now, itong May, we will start talking to China bilaterally about the claims of both countries and the COC, ‘yung Conduct on the Seas ‘di ba, the Code of Conduct,” said designated Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in a news briefing in Cambodia on Wednesday night, May 10.
“So if you ask me ano objectives ng Presidente? Very clear. That our claims, both territorial and economic and our sovereignty rights, our sovereign rights, our economic entitlements [are] not only [ours] to claim but eventually [we’ll] get it ‘no,” he said.
“So yes, we are meeting with the objectives and the President is moving a giant step forward,” he added.
Cayetano said the government would not waste the efforts of the past administration in asserting the country’s claims over the disputed territories.
“Lahat ng past efforts, from President Marcos and even before, to President Aquino’s. Wala tayong sasayangin. So ibig sabihin bawat bala na binigay sa atin na pabor sa Pilipinas, nandiyan ‘yan,” he said.
(All past efforts, from President Marcos and even before, to President Aquino’s. We will not waste anything. So this means that every bullet that has been given in favor of the Philippines, these are all there.)
After he assumed office in June 2016, Duterte said he would have “a soft landing” in dealing with our maritime dispute with China.
Cayetano supported the President’s move, saying the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with other claimants in the South China Sea.
“But ang point ko, kung aawayin natin lahat ng neighbors natin na meron tayong dispute ‘no, tayo lang maiiwan sa buong region eh,” he said.
(But my point is, if we will fight all our neighbors with whom we have disputes, we will be the only one left in the whole region.)
The senator said the Philippines and other Asean-member states were looking forward for the passage of the code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“For a decade, it’s been stalled. But now through the leadership of the President sa Asean, through the cooperation of our Asean brothers and the member states with China, if we get that passed, di ba napakalaking ano niyan, napakalaking ano,” he said.
Duterte and officials from the government will visit Beijing, China to attend the Belt and Road Forum on May 14-16.