Published: Sun, November 12, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Philippines to ask China to clarify its intentions in disputed sea

Philippines to ask China to clarify its intentions in disputed sea

The Philippines has started upgrading military facilities on the biggest features it occupies in the disputed South China Sea, its defense secretary said on Tuesday, asserting Manila's claims in the strategic waterway.

The President said it is about time to make Xi aware that Asean member-states are anxious about China's deployment of military weapons to its occupied islands in the contested waters, as shown in photographs.

The two met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese resort city of Danang.

"The next photographs from intelligence that came up (showed that) there are (weapons)".

"That means those are arms that are poised to fly".

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Duterte, as this year's Asean chair, said he believed there is nothing wrong in raising the regional bloc's concerns with China. Look, you know (they) already placed the heavy artillery there. "It (makes us) wary, anxious because we are also using the passage", he said.

"Now, we are friends (with China)". And I have to carry the voice of Asean.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes four governments involved in the sea feud, agreed earlier this year on a framework for a long-proposed nonaggression pact in the disputed waters.

China objected and sent ships to the area.

"I do not take it against China. It would be something like a scramble there because if China concedes to one, Philippines, it has to concede to the others", Duterte said.

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In a report, released jointly by the Senate and House armed services, the lawmakers noted that the consistent exercise of freedom of navigation operations and overflights by United States naval and air forces throughout the world plays a critical role in safeguarding the freedom of the seas, supporting worldwide law, and ensuring the continued safe passage and promotion of global commerce and trade.

The rift over the tiny sandbar, where Filipinos planned to erect fishermen's shelters, in the group near Philippine- occupied Thitu island in the Spratlys archipelago remains unresolved but both sides pledged not to occupy any new territory, he said. "I would insist that we hurry up".

The Philippine leader said he would stress this to Xi when they meet on Saturday, November 11.

Although the president pointed out that it not good to confront China over the nautical conflict, he said he wants those questions answered "for the sake of my country and the others who have overlapping claims".

The South China Sea is a vitally important waterway for global commerce and for regional security, with nearly 30 per cent of the maritime trade of the world transiting the South China Sea annually.

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