Davao City Mayor and Presidential prospect Rody Duterte visits the island of Mindoro Wednesday, April 22, where he is expected to renew his call for the involvement of world powers, especially the United States of America, in resolving the Philippines dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
“China should not be allowed to use its military and economic might to bully smaller countries like the Philippines,” Duterte declared in previous statements on the issue.
He said that now is the right time for the United States to show to its partners in South East Asia, especially the Philippines with which it has a Mutual Defense Treaty, that it could provide them protection against a military giant like China.
Duterte’s trip to the island located a few hundred kilometres away from the Spratlys islets and atolls which are now occupied by China, is part of his nation-wide “Listening Tour” during which he advocates for a shift from the Presidential to a Parliamentary form of government.
His visit to Mindoro, however, comes at a time when the Philippines’ dispute with China is at its tipping point.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines released Monday new photos of the reclamation projects being done by Beijing in islets and atolls which are already well within the country’s 200-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The reclamation, according to the AFP, has destroyed coral reefs with total damages placed at $100-M.
Vessels belonging to the Chinese Coast Guard were also involved in a water-hosing incident with small Filipino fishing boats which sailed in the country’s traditional fishing waters.
China is apparently turning coral reefs in the area into airstrips and small ports capable of handling military aircraft and ship, a move which has created tension among other claimant countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and even Malaysia.
Duterte had earlier pointed out that China’s imaginary 9-dash line which stretches from its territorial waters deep into the West Philippine and the international waters violates the territorial rights of smaller countries.
“This is no longer just about the small atolls owned by the Philippines which are now being occupied by China. This is already an international issue because China’s 9-dash territorial sea claim in the vast South China Sea will restrict the movement of international shipping and trade and commerce,” Duterte earlier said.
He said the 9-dash Line that China has drawn in the South China Sea will effectively close the international sea lanes to other countries.
In a similar visit to Palawan, two months ago, Duterte said that the problem with China should be approached using three strategies.
The first would be to continue the Philippines appeal for arbitration with the United Nations, he said.
The Philippines could also engage China in bilateral negotiations, Duterte suggested.
However, if everything else fails to resolve the issue, the next President of the Philippines should take a more assertive action to defend the country’s sovereignty, Duterte stressed.
“If I were to become President of the Philippines, I will ask the United States to build a military base in Western part of Palawan so they will be able to confront China in the West Philippine Sea,” he said during his visit to Palawan.
He said other regional powers like Australia should also be asked to help stabilise the region in the face of the aggressive actions of China.
In Mindoro tomorrow, Duterte is expected to issue another statement on the West Philippine Sea row which could well be interpreted as part of the foreign policy of the Duterte Presidency.