By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte on Wednesday (March 29) revealed that he confronted US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim about the US’s alleged inaction on the South China Sea.
According to Duterte, he brought the topic to light when Kim made a courtesy call to him in Davao City, Monday (March 27) afternoon.
Duterte said that if America really wanted to avoid trouble early on, they could have acted on the dispute once aerial photos of China’s constructions were published.
“Pinakita na sa newspapers that there was something brewing, as if a runway was being built, and there are some concrete buildings on the coastal side,” he said during his speech in Soccoro, Oriental Mindoro.
“‘Why did you not send the armada of the Seventh Fleet which are stationed there in the Pacific to just make a U-turn and go there [South China Sea] and tell them right on their [China] face [to] stop it,'” Duterte recalled.
Duterte also said that he reminded Kim of the set of laws that prohibits the construction of man made structures in the high seas.
However, the President said that Kim’s only response was the South China Sea was not part of his assignment at the time and that his assignment was regarding North Korean President Kim Jong Un.
During Duterte’s meeting with Kim, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the two officials reaffirmed that the bilateral relations of the two nations remain strong despite hitting a few bumps in the road.
“The President said that PH-US relations at the bilateral level remain strong and there is readiness to discuss more matters of mutual interest with the US,” Abella said.
According to Abella, Kim also assured Duterte that the US understands the security concerns of the Philippines and that the US is ready to provide more military equipment, assistance and training.
The Palace official added that both countries also agreed that aside from the mutual interests and shared values, fruitful engagements and discussions are very important in ensuring that both states are “on the same page.”
Meanwhile, Duterte reiterated that it is still not the right time to bring up the issue on the South China Sea with China.
He, however, assured that the Philippines will not abandon its claim in the South China Sea.