ASEAN summit to focus on community vision, connectivity

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has opted not to press China to abide by an global arbitration decision previous year that ruled in Manila's favor and invalidated Beijing's sweeping South China Sea claims.

Philippine authorities say no fewer than 40,000 soldiers, policemen and uniformed personnel have been deployed in Manila as the city hosts a summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday.

The summit started with preparatory meetings at Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) that will continue till Friday. "Indonesia will get a chance to share its perspectives as we face an increasingly fluid world and uncertain geo-political and geo-economic situations", Jose said during a press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Pag-asa is internationally known as Thitu island and is called Zhongye island by China.

Chairing the two-day Manila summit, Mr Duterte is expected to push for a speeding up of negotiations on a Code of Conduct, which rival claimants have failed to agree on for many years. His remarks followed a leaked draft chairman's statement that dropped direct criticism of China's massive land reclamations and militarization of the disputed waters in recent years. The Asean Summit is a semi-annual meeting of the leaders of Asean's ten member states to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Duterte has set aside the ruling as he steers the Philippines closer to China.

The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is due to attend a summit in Beijing next month on its massive "Belt and Road" initiative to increase trade and infrastructure ties between China, Asia and beyond. He has set aside the South China Sea ruling, handed down previous year, as he seeks investments and loans from Beijing to help with his anti-crime drive and ambitious infrastructure spending programme.

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China has steadfastly opposed the raising in worldwide forums of its territorial disputes with five governments, including ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China has since lent its support to the idea of drafting a code of conduct for the lucrative waters, although sceptics believing it is merely a stalling tactic by Beijing to buy more tome to expand and fortify its ts presence in the Spratly archipelago.

The Philippines is hosting meetings of ASEAN in 2017.

"China wants to come up with a symbolic framework that says to America "Hey, back off, we're dealing with ASEAN on a very diplomatic level", but nothing significant enough to operationally restrict their ability to respond if the Trump administration takes a tougher position", he said.

He also said he may go to one of the islands already occupied by the Philippines to plant a national flag. Even before the Philippines sought global arbitration on its maritime entitlements, Chinese officials had told me that they in fact felt they were being bullied by the Philippines, with Uncle Sam pulling the strings.

Is Philippines offering Beijing an olive branch over South China Sea?

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