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.


Protests mount in Indian Kashmir clampdown

Updated 19 min 27 sec ago

Protests mount in Indian Kashmir clampdown

  • Tensions remain high in the disputed Himalayan region
  • New Delhi last month to revoked the territory’s decades old semi-autonomous status

SRINAGAR, India: Kashmir has seen an average of nearly 20 protests per day against Indian rule over the last six weeks despite a security lockdown to quell unrest, a senior government source said.
Tensions remain high in the disputed Himalayan region after New Delhi’s controversial decision last month to revoke the territory’s decades old semi-autonomous status.
Despite a curfew, movement restrictions and the severe curtailment of Internet and mobile phone services, public demonstrations against India — mostly in the largest city Srinagar — have been constant, the source said late Saturday.
Altogether there have been 722 protests since August 5, with Baramulla district in the northwest and Pulwama in the south the biggest hotspots after Srinagar, the source said.
Since that date, nearly 200 civilians and 415 security force members have been hurt, according to the source.
Ninety-five of the civilians were injured in the last two weeks, the official said.
So far more than 4,100 people — including 170 local political leaders — have been detained across the valley, with 3,000 released in the past two weeks, the official said.
It was unclear whether any politicians were among those released.
Indian authorities have so far insisted that outbreaks of violence have been minimal, and that only five civilians have died since the clampdown started.
The relatives of four of those killed said they believed the security forces were responsible for their deaths.
The latest updates came as police said Thursday that three men suspected of belonging to a Pakistan-based militant organization were arrested while transporting weapons and ammunition toward Indian Kashmir.
Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which was split between the two countries in 1947.
India deployed extra troops ahead of the August 5 decision to reinforce some 500,000 soldiers already stationed in the region, one of the most militarized places on the planet.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday promised to raise the decision to strip Indian Kashmir of its autonomy at the upcoming UN General Assembly session.