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Sensitive talks

 

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TALKS between President Du­terte and Chinese leader Xi Jinping scheduled later this month in China may turn out to be their most sensitive dialogue.

One reason here is Senate Minor­ity Leader Franklin Drilon’s desire for the President to raise the issue of the rising number of Chinese ships inside our country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Drilon said two Chinese survey ships were spotted operating within our EEZ. The senator was alarmed since nobody knew, not even the government, what these ships are truly doing in our territory. He said China should be made to explain.

Drilon stated that if we were to re­main silent and not take any action, China could assume that we agree with their ships’ presence.

He commended Defense Secre­tary Delfin Lorenzana for question­ing the Chinese vessels’ presence, his actions to protect our territories and uphold our claim in the West Philippine Sea.

Another reason that could bring tension to the meeting is Duterte’s intention to raise Manila’s landmark 2016 arbitral victory, which nullified China’s nine-dash maritime claim over the disputed territory.

Last week, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Beijing’s rejection of the arbitral vic­tory would remain since its position on the issue is unshakable.

Zhao, however, remained con­fident that issue would not affect the friendly ties between the two countries as he trusts that Duterte would not be confrontational when he brings the matter up with Xi.

The Filipino people, nevertheless, hope that Duterte would not priori­tize his friendly ties with China over his earlier promise to assert Manila’s rights to the disputed seas.

In spite of the Philippines’ victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitra­tion in The Hague in 2016, China militarized the disputed territory and continues to shoo our fishermen away from their traditional fishing grounds.

The most recent encounter was when a Chinese fishing vessel rammed an anchored local fishing boat and left 22 of our fishermen struggling for life in the waters. They would have drowned had it not been for a Vietnamese fishing boat that plucked them out.

These are the reasons why, even today, many of our people detest China’s presence in some parts of the country, particularly in the West Philippine Sea. Can we blame them?

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