China and Philip­pines in ‘friendly’ un­der­stand­ing on dis­puted shoal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Philip­pines and China have reached a “friendly” un­der­stand­ing al­low­ing Filipinos to fish around a dis­puted shoal seized by Beijing in 2012, a se­nior aide to Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said yes­ter­day. Duterte ne­go­ti­ated the un­der­stand­ing dur­ing his re­cent meet­ing in Beijing with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, said Manila’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Her­mo­genes Esperon. As a re­sult, he said, in re­cent days Filipino fish­er­men have been able to fish un­mo­lested at Scar­bor­ough Shoal in the South China Sea while Chi­nese govern­ment ves­sels have pa­trolled nearby.

“There is no agree­ment... but our pres­i­dent be­lieves that our fish­er­men will no longer be ha­rassed be­cause he al­ready brought up this mat­ter” dur­ing his visit, Esperon told the me­dia. “The coast­guard of China is there, but their navy is gone. And now, our fish­er­men are no longer be­ing ac­costed, no longer be­ing forced out, so we can say things are now friendly,” he added. Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing ac­knowl­edged some changes.

“The Chi­nese side has con­tin­u­ously ex­er­cised nor­mal ju­ris­dic­tion over Huangyan Is­land, and the sit­u­a­tion has not changed,” she said in Beijing, re­fer­ring to the shoal by its Chi­nese name. “Re­la­tions be­tween China and the Philip­pines have com­pre­hen­sively im­proved, and un­der such a sit­u­a­tion, China has al­ready made some proper ar­range­ments with re­gards to is­sues of con­cern to Pres­i­dent Duterte.” China took con­trol of Scar­bor­ough Shoal, 230 kilo­me­ters west of the main Philip­pine is­land of Lu­zon, in 2012. It had been driv­ing away Filipino fish­er­men from the rich fish­ing ground, some­times us­ing water can­non.

But last week­end Filipino fish­er­men were once more able to fish at the shoal with the Chi­nese ships not in­ter­fer­ing.Esperon stressed that nei­ther coun­try dropped its claim to the shoal, with China in­sist­ing on its “his­tor­i­cal rights”. China claims most of the South China Sea de­spite par­tial counter-claims by the Philip­pines, Brunei, Malaysia, Tai­wan and Viet­nam. Esperon said Duterte’s po­si­tion was that the Philip­pines also had “his­tor­i­cal rights,” and that it was also bol­stered by an in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal rul­ing in July that there was no ba­sis for China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.

He said the two lead­ers de­cided to sidestep the is­sue to re­pair frayed ties. “There is no talk on ter­ri­to­rial rights, there is no talk on as­ser­tion of rights, but they re­spect our tra­di­tional rights,” Esperon added. Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor Benigno Aquino had brought the case be­fore the in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal which re­sulted in the re­sound­ing vic­tory over China.

Aquino’s strong op­po­si­tion to China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims strained ties with Beijing. How­ever Duterte, who was elected in May, has said he will not press the ter­ri­to­rial is­sue and in­stead seek more aid and in­vest­ment from China. “There is no res­o­lu­tion, so why al­low your­selves to be in that con­fronta­tional po­si­tion when you can talk about eco­nomic re­la­tions, trade re­la­tions?” said Esperon. “It is win-win for both but this is not to say that we have dropped our claim.”— AFP

Ja­pan Coast Guard se­cu­rity team mem­bers dis­play track­ing and cap­ture drills by rigid-hulled in­flat­able boats against an uniden­ti­fied ship at sea in Yoko­hama near Tokyo dur­ing an in­spec­tion tour by Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. —AP

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