Manila, Nov 8 (IANS) Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has cancelled a construction project in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands, an official said on Wednesday.
Duterte cancelled the project following protests from Beijing, said Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at a forum in Manila, Efe news reported.
Lorenzana said that in August the Philippines Army carried construction material to a shoal, located 4.6 kilometres from Thitu Island, administered de facto by Manila, which calls it Pagasa, in the South China Sea.
Since assuming power in June 2016, Duterte has done away with the policy of confrontation with China, practised under his predecessor Benigno Aquino, to promote closer ties with Beijing.
This has led to significant agreements of cooperation between the two nations regarding investment, trade and developmental aid.
In return, Duterte has refused to call for China’s compliance with the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favour of the Philippines in its sovereignty dispute regarding the Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea.
Lorenzana also said that Manila and Beijing will negotiate a military protocol to prevent incidents or altercations in the areas under dispute between the two parties.
Tension in the South China Sea — where Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also exercise sovereignty claims — has increased in recent years with accusations and counter-accusations between governments, and an increase in the presence of the Chinese military in the region.
Other countries involved in the dispute accuse China of strengthening its position in the area by constructing artificial islands, barracks and landing strips.
The conflict in the South China Sea is likely to be among the pressing issues during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which will kick off on Sunday in the Philippines.
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