Philippines won’t exclude the West in disputed sea

MANILA • The Philippines’ top diplomat said the country would not follow China’s stance of keeping Western powers — including the US — out of the disputed South China Sea.

The South China Sea Code of Conduct that South-East Asian nations are crafting with Beijing won’t lead to western countries’ exclusion from the waters, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin (picture) said yesterday.

“I can swear to you, Western powers will be in the South China Sea,” Locsin told lawmakers in a hearing in Manila. “We believe in the balance of power, that the freedom of the Filipino people depends on the balance of power in the South China Sea.”

Locsin said he had made that assurance to Western nations, without elaborating on who he had spoken to.

Tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea have been on the rise, with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this month urging South- East Asian nations to review ties with Chinese state-owned firms involved in building artificial islands in the area.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier criticised the US for supposedly intervening in territorial disputes and strengthening its military deployment in the waters. — Bloomberg