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.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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