Philippine President Duterte urges Beijing to ‘temper’ behavior in South China Sea

In a change of tone, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech late Tuesday to business entrepreneurs that China had no right to claim airspace above man-made islands. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018

Philippine President Duterte urges Beijing to ‘temper’ behavior in South China Sea

  • China has alarmed and angered its neighbors by claiming dominion over most of the South China Sea
  • ‘You cannot create an island. It’s man-made and you say that the air above this artificial island is yours’

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has urged China to “temper” its behavior in the South China Sea in a rare criticism of the Asian superpower over its program of island-building in disputed waters.
China has alarmed and angered its neighbors by claiming dominion over most of the South China Sea and building a string of artificial islands and military air bases.
But the outspoken Duterte — keen to court trade and investment from Beijing — has mostly withheld criticism.
In a change of tone, Duterte said in a speech late Tuesday to business entrepreneurs that China had no right to claim airspace above man-made islands.
Philippine officials have claimed military pilots are repeatedly warned off by Beijing as their planes approach Philippine-held Thitu island, which lies beside a Chinese air base built on top of Subi Reef.
“You cannot create an island. It’s man-made and you say that the air above this artificial island is yours,” Duterte said, according to a transcript released by the presidential palace Wednesday.
“That is wrong because those waters are what (one) would consider international sea. And the right of innocent passage is guaranteed,” said Duterte, who did not refer to any specific incident.
He added that he did not want to “quarrel” with China.
The comments follow allegations in May of Chinese harassment of Filipino troops at another South China Sea garrison.
Duterte’s national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon told reporters at the time that the Philippines could go to war “if our people are hurt there.”
There was no immediate response from the Chinese embassy in Manila.
In May China landed several combat aircraft — including the long-range, nuclear-capable H-6K — at another island airfield in the sea for the first time, triggering international concern.
Despite this, it has denied militarizing the area, through which roughly a third of all global maritime trade passes.
An international maritime tribunal ruled early in Duterte’s presidency in 2016 that China’s claims to the area have no legal basis.
The Philippines is a military ally of the US, which says it is not taking sides in the various South China Sea territorial disputes.
However, the US navy has forcefully asserted its right to freedom of navigation in the area, repeatedly sailing close to the man-made islands and drawing Chinese protests.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea.


Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

Updated 37 min 41 sec ago

Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

  • Devoted dad overcomes strict traditions on female roles in hope of seeing girl become town’s first female doctor

PAKISTAN: Devoted Afghan dad Mia Khan has been hailed for going the extra mile to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Every day, the daily wage laborer, from Sharan city in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, travels 12 km on his motorcycle to take Rozai to school.

And when classes end, he is there for the long and hazardous journey home through tough borderland terrain.

“You know, we don’t have any female doctors in our town. It is my ultimate wish to see my daughter as its first female doctor. I want her to serve humanity,” Khan told Arab News.

Paktika shares a 300 km border with Pakistan’s newly merged tribal districts of North and South Waziristan and parts of Balochistan province, where powerful patriarchal norms still dictate most women’s lives.

But Rozai and her father are determined to buck the trend through her tuition at Nooranya School, a community educational institution built by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

Rozai told Arab News: “We have to travel a long distance and I would like for a school to be established closer to our home. We are often tired (from our journey) when we arrive at school and sometimes, we are late.”

Saif-ur-Rehman Shahab, a representative of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told Arab News that Khan, who has for years taken his children to school on a motorcycle, deserved all the plaudits he could get. Khan has two sons and seven daughters.

“Khan gets his children, specifically his daughter Rozai, educated in a very challenging situation. We have deteriorating security and poor awareness about girls’ education here. Khan is facing acute financial challenges working as a daily wage laborer. I deeply appreciate him for facing all these challenges boldly to educate his daughter,” Shahab said.

Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Khan’s passion was an inspiration to others. “Amid brewing insecurity coupled with cultural limitations, this is a really positive change when people like Khan come out to educate their children, primarily daughters.”

Nooranya School has 220 female students and is one of hundreds of community-based classes and schools, predominantly attended by girls, set up by the committee in various parts of Paktika province.