Discord, synergy up in gab

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SINGAPORE – President Rodrigo Duterte will reiterate the Philippines’ stand on issues about the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) when he meets with his fellow Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders.

He is also expected to raise the same when he joins dialogue partners on Wednesday in the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits here.

The Chief Executive, along with the nine other heads of states from the region, is slated to convene for expected discussions with China in three related meetings

In a Palace statement released Monday night, Duterte said he “will engage leaders of ASEAN dialogue partner-countries to further enrich partnership in key areas of cooperation.”

“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and trans-boundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” it said.

The Chief Executive, along with the other nine heads of states from the region, is slated to convene for expected discussions with China in three related meetings – the 21st ASEAN-China Summit (ASEAN Plus One), the ASEAN Plus Three Summit (with Japan and South Korea) and the East Asia Summit where Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States are also expected to be in attendance.

In the ASEAN Plus One meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the 10 leaders may raise concerns over the continuing land reclamations in the WPS and the reported building and operation of so-called weather stations and other military structures in the area, particularly on the Spratly Islands.

Malacañang stated that the Philippines is looking to have a meaningful exchange of views “and discussions on regional and global developments that impact regional peace, security and stability.

China has repeatedly claimed ownership of nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the WPS.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, however, voided claims made by Beijing in July 2016 and arbitrarily recognized the Philippines’ sovereignty over the area.

Duterte arrived Monday night and immediately gathered Cabinet members who are part of his official delegation to discuss talking points which may possibly crop up during the three-day summit, including the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China.

Malacañang stated that the Philippines is looking to have a meaningful exchange of views “and discussions on regional and global developments that impact regional peace, security and stability.”

The ASEAN and China are still in the middle of negotiations for the adoption of a new code of conduct in the WPS for maritime stability.

The President is also expected to tackle the Philippines’ economic viability for micro, small and medium enterprises and the country’s infrastructure development through its “Build, Build, Build” program.

“Non-traditional issues” like counterterrorism, illegal drugs and human trafficking and how these are being addressed by the government are also expected to be discussed by Duterte.

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