By Genalyn Kabiling
DA NANG, Vietnam — The Philippines is not ready to lose friendship with China and go to war over a territorial row but will ask the Asian giant to finally agree towards a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
President Duterte said he intends to relay such message to help ease the tension in the disputed waters when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit here.
The two leaders are among the 21 Pacific Rim leaders attending the APEC summit in Da Nang, Vietnam. The bilateral meeting between Duterte and Trump is scheduled this Saturday before the President returns to the Philippines.
“I don’t want to lose friendship with China. China is a good friend. China was there when we needed most their help,” the President said in a press conference after a meeting with the Filipino community in Da Nang on Thursday night.
“China, who controls the passage, must come up with a code of conduct… In the bilateral, i would insist that we hurry up,” he added.
As chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Duterte also plans to inform Xi about the regional bloc’s “wary and worry” about its massive military buildup in the disputed territory.
Duterte said he has a responsibility to tell China that “everybody is worried” about growing militarization of the area.
“Because we are friends, I’m ready to listen to China,” he said. “I will tell him straight. ‘You know Mr. President the whole of the ASEAN is worried about how we should behave in the seas that are now militarized,” he added.
“The best way is to have a written code of conduct so you read it and you would know that you are crossing boundaries because as of now, it is now a contested claim,” he said.
Dutete also ruled out anew going to war with China, saying the country cannot afford to use force or violence to force China to stop its reclamation works. He maintained that he prefers to settle the dispute through peaceful and lawful means.
“Those arms are not there for any other purpose, they are not decorations. They are there because China would need. For what purpose? I really do not know. But if it’s war, forget it. I’m not interested to go to war with China. I’m interested in friendship,” Duterte said.
“But i have to ask him questions reflecting the sentiments of the ASEAN,” he added.
Duterte also admitted that he ordered a stop to the nipa hut building on a sandbar in the disputed territory to de-escalate tension. He aknowleged that the area is not only being contested by the Philippines and China but other nations as well.
“If you allow that, Taiwan is already complaining and is about to do the same. It’s not because of China alone. You’ll be facing multiple action against contestants,” he said
“There are about six contestants there not only China. If you start there, it will be chaos. Then China might be selective, then you will have another controversy here which we don’t like,”
The ASEAN earlier proposed a binding code of conduct of concerned parties in the South China Sea to ease the tension in the area. The code of conduct is currently being drafted and negotiated at the ASEAN ministerial level.
The Philippines and some ASEAN nations are among the nations with overlapping claims with China in the disputed territory.
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