Sea dis­pute may be raised dur­ing Asean-china sum­mit

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THE long-stand­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes among claimants to the South China Sea, which the Philip­pines calls the West Philip­pine Sea, might be raised dur­ing the Asean-china sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore next week.

The meet­ing is part of the 33rd As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) Sum­mit and Re­lated Sum­mits, which is sched­uled for No­vem­ber 13 to 15 in Sin­ga­pore

DFA As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Jun­ever Mahilum-west, in a press con­fer­ence Fri­day, No­vem­ber 9, said, how­ever, that she was not privy to the de­tails.

“As you know, the Philip­pines has as­sumed the co­or­di­na­tor­ship of the ASEAN-CHINA di­a­logue part­ner­ship from this year un­til 2021, that's for a pe­riod of thee years," the For­eign Af­fairs of­fi­cial said.

“And we are quite sure that the South China Sea, as I've men­tioned be­fore, would be one of those re­gional de­vel­op­ments that would be taken up in the Sum­mit. As to the de­tail of the dis­cus­sions, I can­not say but for sure there's go­ing to be dis­cus­sion on the South China Sea," she added.

Mahilum-west also said Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte might have the op­por­tu­nity to meet with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on the side­lines of the sum­mit.

“There's al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity. But any meet­ings would have to be, of course, pre­pared for be­fore­hand. So we'll just see," she added.

The Asean-china Sum­mit will be held amid re­ports that China has in­stalled new weather sta­tions on the Fiery Cross (Kag­itin­gan), Subi (Zamora), and Mis­chief (Pan­gani­ban) reefs in the con­tested Spratly Is­lands.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesper­son Lu Lang re­port­edly said ear­lier that the weather sta­tions would be used to en­sure nav­i­ga­tional safety in the con­tested wa­ters, but the South China Morn­ing Post claimed that the fa­cil­i­ties "could also be used for mil­i­tary pur­poses."

On No­vem­ber 5, Presid­ne­tial Spokesper­son Sal­vador Panelo said the Philip­pines would file a diplo­matic protest against China, if Bei­jing is in­deed beef­ing up de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the dis­puted South China Sea.

China has ex­ten­sive claims to nearly all South China Sea based on its "nine-dash line" the­ory. Other claimants are Tai­wan, Brunei, Malaysia, Viet­nam, and the Philip­pines.

Mahilum-west said the Asean sum­mit would let the re­gional bloc lead­ers "see the progress of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Asean Com­mu­nity blue­prints and the work in mov­ing com­mu­nity build­ing for­ward as well as bring­ing Asean closer to the re­al­iza­tion of a rules-based, peo­ple-ori­ented, and peo­ple-cen­tered Asean Com­mu­nity."

She said the re­lated sum­mits would be an op­por­tu­nity for South­east Asian lead­ers to look into the progress of Asean’s re­la­tions with its di­a­logue part­ners and the deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion with them on a num­ber of pri­or­ity areas.

Pri­orty areas in­clude in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment; eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion; devel­op­ment of mi­cro, small, and medium en­ter­prises; con­nec­tiv­ity; non-tra­di­tional se­cu­rity is­sues like coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism; il­licit drugs; and traf­fick­ing in per­sons.

Other areas of co­op­er­a­tion were women and youth, dis­as­ter man­age­ment, cli­mate change, and peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes.

"This is a sum­mit with our ma­jor play­ers in the re­gion. We can ex­pect en­gag­ing dis­cus­sions on re­gional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues that im­pact on the peace, se­cu­rity, and over­all well-be­ing of the peo­ples of our re­gion," Mahilum-west said./sun­star Philip­pines

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