Duterte to press Xi on arms buildup in South China Sea

Manila drops South China Sea hut construction on sandbar after Beijing gripes

DA NANG (First published 11:06 p.m. on November 9) -President Rodrigo Duterte will raise the concerns of the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the reclamation and militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Although the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in July previous year by invalidating China's claims in the South China Sea, Duterte has chosen to set aside the ruling to cultivate closer ties to its giant neighbor.

He said he has seen surveillance photos that showed "almost all the islands (China occupies) were militarised already".

"China complained because the Philippines was occupying new features, which it said was a violation of a bilateral agreement", Lorenzana added. "It [makes] us anxious and wary because we are also using the passage", he said.

"We are friends with China".

China claims a large portion of the South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim. China was there when we needed most of their help.

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But, he added that, as this year's chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, "I have to carry the voice of ASEAN" and "tell the truth that everybody is anxious". The best way is to have a written code of conduct. "So you just read it and you'd know that you are not crossing boundaries because as of now, it is a contested claim", Duterte told reporters on Thursday night, November 9, in Da Nang, Vietnam.

"While construction is ongoing, albeit intermittently, depending on good weather, we expect its completion by early 2018", Lorenzana said, adding the monsoon rains have been hampering the building of the beach ramp.

The President said China must cooperate with Asean countries in coming up with a code of conduct governing the use of the seas to resolve the maritime disputes.

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. "Now, he (Xi) said they will not build anything in the Scarborough Shoal".

The report released on Thursday said that China was undermining regional security and prosperity and challenging global rules and norms by engaging in coercive activities and attempting to limit lawful activities in the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims there.

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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