Manila urges closer tie-up against China
The Secretary of the Philippines' Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Martin Andanar, urged Asean to increase its cooperation against China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and ramp up counter-terrorism efforts against the Islamic State (IS) group within the region.
With regards to the situation in the South China Sea -- which Manila officially calls the West Philippine Sea -- Mr Andanar maintained his country will continue to assert its sovereignty over the disputed area despite China's claim over the region, before citing the Permanent Court of Arbitration Tribunal's decision which ruled in favour of the Philippines.
In 2016, the tribunal at The Hague concluded China has no legal basis to claim historic rights over the so-called "Nine-dash line", which covers the bulk of the South China Sea. They pointed out that Beijing had no exclusive zone entitlements within 200 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands, which is claimed by the Philippines. "We continue to claim our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea," he told the Bangkok Post. "We will continue to hold that card."
President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has been criticised by the opposition for cozying up to China, after Mr Duterte revealed in September that he was offered a controlling stake in a joint energy deal by China's President Xi Jinping, in exchange for ignoring the tribunal's decision.
However, Mr Andanar said, the Philippine government "does not follow any orders from any other countries."
"President Duterte believes, that for the interest of every Filipino, we should be friend to all, and enemy to none," he says.
"China is a huge country, very powerful, and we agree with what the prime minister of Malaysia has said -- that they cannot go to war with China because they are too powerful," he added.