Philippine vice president blasts ‘reckless’ Duterte over China deal

Leni Robredo also leads the opposition in the Philippines. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

Philippine vice president blasts ‘reckless’ Duterte over China deal

  • Robredo said Duterte’s remarks were “profoundly disappointing”
  • The arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between the two countries

MANILA: The vice president of the Philippines on Thursday rebuked the country’s leader for being “reckless” in suggesting he would consider ignoring an arbitration ruling in its favor over a territorial dispute with China in order to forge a joint energy deal with Beijing.
Leni Robredo, who also leads the opposition, described as “extremely irresponsible” President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent openness to concede to China and accept its offer to jointly develop gas reserves, which an international tribunal ruled Manila had the right to exploit.
Entering into any deal should not come at the expense of upholding the country’s rights in the South China Sea, Robredo said in a statement.
Robredo was elected separately to Duterte and was not his running mate. She has a frosty relationship with the president, who often mocks her during his public speeches.
Duterte on Tuesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that Beijing was ready to be a minority partner in a joint energy venture at the Reed Bank, but the Philippines must first set aside the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a ruling China does not recognize.
Its interpretation of maritime boundaries also ruled that China’s claim to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis under United Nations maritime law, in what was a big blow to Beijing.
Robredo said Duterte’s remarks were “profoundly disappointing” and said the Philippine constitution already allowed partnerships with foreign firms within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), without the need to make concessions.
The arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between the two countries, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference. Meanwhile, the countries could focus on items that could be of mutual benefit, he added.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has pursued warmer ties with China, avoiding criticism or confrontation with Beijing exchange for billions of dollars in loans, grants and investment, much of which have yet to arrive.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, who was among those who sought arbitration, said Duterte did not need to give anything away.
“To come up with an economic activity in our EEZ need not involve setting aside the arbitral ruling and running afoul of the constitution,” del Rosario said.


Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

Updated 37 min 53 sec ago

Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

  • Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents
  • China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city

BEIJING: The last British governor of Hong Kong criticized the Chinese government on Friday over proposed national security legislation, calling it part of an “Orwellian” drive to eliminate opposition in violation of the agreement on handing the territory over to Beijing.
Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents if Beijing goes through with passage of the legislation.
The law is seen as potentially imposing severe restrictions on freedom of speech and opposition political activity in the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. China has denounced the offer of citizenship as a violation of its sovereignty.
“If they’ve broken the (Sino-British) Joint Declaration, if they’ve thrown it overboard, how can they then use the joint declaration as though it stops us doing something that’s a sovereign right of ours?” said Patten, now chancellor of the University of Oxford, in an online talk with reporters.
The declaration is a bilateral treaty signed as part of the handover process. China has essentially declared it null and void, while Britain says Beijing is reneging on its commitments made in the document that was supposed to be remain in effect until 2047.
China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city, which was promised a high level of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs.
An earlier push to pass security legislation was shelved after massive Hong Kong street protests against it in 2003. However, Beijing appeared to lose patience after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that China said was an attempt to split the territory off from the rest of the country.
Patten said the security legislation is unnecessary because Hong Kong’s legal code already includes provisions to combat terrorism, financial crimes and other threats to security.
“What Beijing wants is something which deals with those rather worrying Orwellian crimes like sedition, whatever that may be,” Patten said.
China may also be seeking grounds to disqualify opposition candidates from running in September’s election for the local legislature by accusing them of being disloyal, he said.
Beijing has ignored promises that Hong Kong could democratize of its own accord after the handover, Patten said. The US should unite with other democratic countries to oppose underhanded tactics by Beijing, he said.
“It’s the Chinese Communist Party which attacks us, which hectors, which bullies, which tells companies which have roots in our countries, that unless they do what China wants, they won’t get any business in China,” Patten said. “That’s the way the Mafia behave, and the rest of the world shouldn’t put up with it, because if we do, liberal democracies are going to be screwed.”