Philippines' Duterte visits Chinese warships in home town

Which means that the biggest gainer there is China and its effort to blunt the Arbitral Tribunal ruling that upheld our claim to a part of the South China Sea.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims that overlap with China's. "We can have joint exercises here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea", Duterte said after visiting the two Chinese warships and a support vessel visiting the region as part of a goodwill cruise.

Foreign Affairs executive director for ASEAN affairs Zaldy Patron said there have been agreements on the items to be included in the framework.

Duterte assured that he will continue to talk to China, but said the issue regarding the ruling will be discussed at a later time.

"We reaffirmed the importance of the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursuing the peaceful resolution of disputes, without resorting to the threat or use of force", the final chairman's statement released yesterday said.

In July 2016, the UN-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines that China's historic nine-dash line, which claimed nearly all the South China Sea, has no historic and legal basis.

The South China Sea is a lucrative area as it contains ample oil, gas and fishery resources, while also facilitating some Dollars $5 trillion worth of trade each year (hence being one of the world's key seaborne trade routes).

The softened statement comes as the current Asean chairman, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seeks to bury the hatchet with China after years of wrangling over its maritime assertiveness.

The Philippines, which used to be the most critical voice of all conflicting partners in the past six years, has softened its tone considerably and encouraged other claimants to take similar softer lines toward China.

On the summit's sidelines, Lopez said Duterte had "developed friendship" with China on his trip to Beijing in October, and such friendship had "opened many doors to the Philippines".

"Yeah. None that we know of", Patron told reporters in a press briefing.

"For Trump to celebrate somebody who boasts of killing his own citizens, and then invite him to the White House while remaining silent on his disgusting human rights record, sends a bad message", said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post.

This, even as the Chinese side has informed the Philippines that investigations did not reveal any reported harassment incidents.

Washington confirmed recently that US President Donald Trump would attend the year-end ASEAN-related summit - the ASEAN-US summit and East Asia Summit - after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Danang.

  • Leroy Wright