By Ralph Villanueva/ Manila Times
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) will be raised by President Rodrigo Duterte during talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.
Duterte and Abe would exchange views on regional issues of mutual concern such as claims to the South China Sea and developments in the Korean Peninsula, DFA Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said in a briefing.
Duterte, who will be attending the 25th Nikkei Conference on Future of Asia on May 30-31, will also discuss partnerships involving defence, security, economic co-operation and infrastructure development as part of the agenda, along with jobs for skilled Filipino workers and aid for the Bangsamoro region. “The peace and stability in the region is a mutual concern to both the Philippines and Japan. And the South China Sea is central in this regard,” Montealegre said.
“The Philippines, for its part, has always affirmed its commitment to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight, freedom of commerce and other lawful activities, exercise of self-restraint, and the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he added.
China has heightened activities in the South China Sea and, earlier this week, a US-based think tank said fishing fleets had returned to harvest giant clams in areas such as the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, which it seized from the Philippines in 2012.
Duterte, who has courted Beijing’s favour in a pivot from traditional Philippine ally the US, last month threatened “suicide” attacks following reports that Chinese vessels had been spotted near Philippine-held Pagasa (Thitu) Island.
Meanwhile, Montealegre said Duterte and Abe would not be witnessing the signing of any agreements during the Japan visit. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said at least 10 deals could be inked with Japanese firms.
“There will be no agreements to be signed during this particular visit. The meeting between the two leaders is the key takeaway of this particular visit,” Montealegre said.
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