Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Philippines' Duterte cancels visit to disputed Sth China Sea island

Philippines' Duterte cancels visit to disputed Sth China Sea island

The brash Philippine leader last week announced his plan to raise the Philippine flag in the island of Thitu and fortify it with barracks, setting off alarm bells. "China sent word that, 'please, do not do that, '" he said, adding that the Chinese government was concerned that if heads of state of rival claimant countries go to the disputed region "there'll likely be trouble". "I will correct myself because we value our friendship with China". China has claimed ownership of some 90 percent of the water and the dozens of tiny islands, many uninhabited, in a bid to exert more control over fishing territory and heavily used global trade shipping routes.

However, feeling that such colonization orders will sever relations with Beijing, Duterte made a decision to cancel his planned visit to the disputed shoal on Wednesday where he personally planned to raise the national flag on one of the islands. China claims most of the region, through which more than $5 trillion of trade happens annually, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims.

In July 2016, The Hague Tribunal awarded the Philippines sovereignty rights over the Spratly Islands, rejecting China's claim that it has historic rights to the archipelago. The court criticised Beijing's environmental destruction in the disputed area.The ruling infuriated China and it refused to accept the verdict.

This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

The President wrapped up his state visit to Qatar, the last leg of his Middle East tour, with a meeting with the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on revitalized bilateral relations especially on trade and investment. The Middle East is the second largest source of remittances, with more than one million Filipino workers sending home $7.6 billion in a year ago, government data showed.

According to the Straits Times, President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he would like to keep a consistent "geopolitical balance" within the South China Sea for the time being.

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