By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte assured that the Philippines is not giving up its rights on the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) despite the country’s renewed and improved friendship with China.
Dutere made the assurance during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
In his speech, Duterte said that while his push for friendlier ties with China resulted to positive outputs, he said that he will not give up on the country’s rights in the disputed waters.
“Our improved relationship with China, however, does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interests in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“This is why we engage China through bilateral and multilateral platforms such as the ASEAN-China and the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism,” he added.
According to Duterte, opening lines of communication and amicably managing differences have led to positive developments that include renewed access of Filipino fishermen in the disputed areas.
He also said that participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China dialogue has resulted to the draft framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea which intends to resolve disputes by peaceful means.
Since assuming the presidency two years ago, Duterte has repeatedly said that he will raise the arbitral ruling which grants the Philippines rights over the West Philippine Sea, with China before his term ends.
Meanwhile, Duterte also lauded how the re-energized relations of the Philippines with China led to an unprecedented level of cooperation on the war against transnational crimes.
“Our shared intelligence led to the discovery and dismantling of the clandestine shabu laboratories and the arrest of Chinese chemists [connected] with the Dragon organization called Wu Syndicate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duterte said that the Philippines will continue to assert and pursue an independent foreign policy as he emphasized that long-term national development and national security goals come first.
“We shall continue to reach out to all nations regardless of their prevailing political persuasions or proximity to or distance from our shores so long as these nations wish us well,” he said.
According to Duterte, the country’s stronger bonds with its ASEAN neighbors resulted to the trilateral border patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia which he claims put pirates and terrorists in the shared waters “out of business.”
Meanwhile, Duterte appealed to other countries to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) they are hosting.
“We admire our Filipino migrant workers for their selflessness and courage in enduring the hardships of living away from home to provide for their families. You epitomize the innate resilience of the nation,” he said.
“It is for this reason that we are continuing to work with the host nations to ensure the welfare of our countrymen. I appeal to all host governments to help us, as true and dependable partners, in this endeavor,” he added.
According to Duterte, OFWs have shown sacrificed a lot for their loved ones, and have also greatly contributed to the national economy.
“This is why we strongly condemn the deaths and abuses experienced by Filipino migrant workers in the hands of their foreign employers. I have said this before and I say it again: I am a worker of government, and it is my vow to make sure that your well-being remains our foremost foreign policy concern,” he added.