Davao City – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte turned his tough talk on China and Malaysia as he maintained that the Philippines would assert its claims over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and Sabah.
“Whether you want to believe it or not, that is beside the point. The point is, that is ours,” Duterte said in a press conference early Thursday.
He was referring to territories in the Spartly Islands located in the West Philippine Sea which were claimed by China when the Asian giant established structures in some of the islands.
China has been maintaining that the disputed areas fall within the “nine-dotted line” which it asserts as its territory. But the Philippines has challenged this claim in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and said that China violated the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, on exclusive economic zones and territorial seas.
“It is a question that the (disputed territories) are well within the 200-kilometer exclusive economic zone of the country. You put something there that would obstruct or impede our movement in the exercise of that right, it’s a violation of our rights and the law of the seas,” Duterte asserted.
He said he had raised this issue with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua when the latter paid him a courtesy call here last week.
“I told (Zhao), whether you like it or not, that’s ours. The least you can do since it is in the arbitration stage, you might want to allow our brother-fishermen (to fish in the area),” Duterte said.
Zhao had earlier said he was particularly struck when the incoming Philippine president raised the issue about the fishermen who have been seriously affected by the long-running dispute between the two countries which clearly “demonstrated his concern for the poor people.”
Duterte’s assertion that the international law of the seas should be followed in settling the dispute actually ran counter to what Zhao said was the incoming president’s willingness to get into direct bilateral negotiations with China.
Duterte likewise maintained that his administration “will stick to our claim” on Sabah.
“We are allowing proprietary heirs to talk (with Malaysia). Since it is part of our claim, it will be there as our land,” he said.