September 10, 2016 at 12:01 am
Sandy Araneta and Sara Susanne D. Fabunan
CHINA has promised to help the Philippines build a drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday.
In a speech before the Filipino community in Indonesia, Duterte said a drug rehabilitation center is being built in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
“China offered to build the rehab. I think they have already started in Magsaysay. They are bringing the materials there already... only China will help us,” Duterte said.
“I would like to thank China for being generous to us,” the President added.
Duterte then explained that he has yet to build a rehabilitation center because he is operating on a budget approved by the previous administration.
“The budget does not include treatment and rehabilitation for 3.7 million drug addicts,” Duterte also said.
The Philippines and China have expressed the need to craft a framework for a code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea and to settle territorial disputes peacefully.
The overlapping maritime claims in the region was one of the topics discussed during the Asean-China meet held Wednesday in Vientiane, Laos attended by heads of state, including Duterte.
“China was vigorously asking to begin with the Code of Conduct as well as Singapore, and our president of the Philippines—President Duterte—also expressed his approval of having this framework of Code of Conduct initiated,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing in Vientiane.
The trend to resolve differences will be good, there is now positive direction in our relations, and the (code of) conduct in the South China Sea should happen next year after the framework of the Code of Conduct has been dealt with by the Asean region,” Andanar said.
Andanar said Duterte also called on his fellow leaders to “be on the side of peace.”
“International disputes should inspire us to work together with adherence to the rule of law and international governing bodies; put words into actions and be on the side of peace,” he quoted Duterte as saying during the meeting.
Andanar said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was “stoically listening” when Duterte delivered the statement.
Leaders who attended the Asean-China meeting agreed that the South China Sea row should not define the relationship between the regional bloc and the emerging superpower.
“Relations are broader than any singular issue in terms of China and the Asean and China’s success is important to Asean and vice versa,” Andanar said.
The Philippines and China are locked in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea also called the West Philippine Sea, where more than $5 trillion in trade passes through every year.
China claims historic rights over about 90 percent of the area while Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
In 2013, the Philippines, under President Benigno Aquino III, questioned the legality of China’s sweeping territorial claim, calling it “exaggerated” and “excessive.”
A Hague-based arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines last July and declared that China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea has no legal basis.
China has refused to honor the decision, calling it “illegal since Day One.”
Duterte has expressed readiness to hold bilateral talks with China to settle the dispute.
He has also asked former President Fidel Ramos to hold backchannel talks with Chinese representatives.
Despite the conciliatory talk, a Chinese coast guard vessel blocked four Filipino fishing boats from entering the Panatag Shoal, GMA News reported Friday.
The Chinese not only blocked the boats, but also cut their anchors, GMA News said.
It added that the Chinese coast guard allegedly threatened one group of fishermen and bore a hole on the boat.
Residents of Palawan confirmed the increased presence of Chinese vessels around the shoal.
On Thursday, China denied that there was an increasing presence of Chinese vessels in the contested Scarborough Shoal.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying slammed individuals who he said were spreading incorrect reports that may increase tension to the region.
“I can tell you that there has not been any change to the Huangyan Island situation. China has also not taken new actions,” Hua said.