Watchdog says ASEAN must stand vs. killings in Philippines

Twenty Philippine Navy (PN) ships, of various changes and sizes, will be deployed to secure delegates of the ASEAN Summit and Related meetings from April 26 to 29 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

He insisted it is a "non-issue" with other ASEAN countries even if there are 4 other countries with claims in the South China Sea that overlap with China's.

But China's fast growing network of airbases and military facilities on disputed South China Sea land features, without a mutually acceptable modus vivendi in place to avoid conflicts at sea, has pushed his government and top generals to draw a harder line in the sand.

However it did not mention China directly, nor the worldwide tribunal's ruling.

But it strengthens the country's claim on territory, and the ruling went beyond what the Philippines sought, by specifically invalidating China's entire nine-dash-line territorial claim.

That indicates a change in the sentiment on display in February past year when Obama became the first president to host the Asean leaders in the U.S.

Asked if China can be pressured by global opinion, he replied: "Who will dare pressure China? Us?"

"Before, nagsabi ang China, we will not honor".

That means discussion of the disputed South China Sea - China claims cross over with some Southeast Asian states - will probably be on the back burner.

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"At least, if there's a [code of] conduct and [China] will agree, so many things will be out, for example, challenges in the high seas and then the overflight that you have to identify yourself", said Duterte. He has set aside the South China Sea ruling, handed down previous year, as he seeks investments and loans from Beijing to help with his anti-crime drive and ambitious infrastructure spending programme.

Territorial disputes with China and the Philippines' war on drugs will take the centre-stage at the Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), whose work agenda began on Wednesday.

Asean 2017 is the third chairmanship for Philippines.

The leaders also underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety.

The Chairman's statement of the 2016 ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, also did not mention the arbitral tribunal ruling. Duterte has been accused by critics of taking a defeatist position on China and on defending Philippine sovereignty.

Asean leaders, including Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will attend Saturday's summit. He added: "Before, China said we will not honour (it), so why will you force (them) to honour?"

"With mounting evidence of government involvement in thousands of extrajudicial executions in Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs", Amnesty International is calling on regional leaders to take a stand against possible crimes against humanity", the group said.

Duterte said raising the arbitral ruling with Asean leaders was not necessary because it would only sow tension between China and the Philippines.

  • Adam Floyd