Maritime disputes take centerstage at WEF

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2014 07:03 PM | Updated as of May 23 2014 06:52 PM

President Aquino greets Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (right) to the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum where the Vietnamese leader took the opportunity to lash out on China. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for

MANILA - Maritime disputes in the South China Sea took centerstage at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in Makati City on Thursday as Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung lashed out at China anew.

“The action [made] by China has indirectly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea," he said.

"Vietnam always wants peace and friendship. We have exercised utmost restraint... and exhausted all dialogue channels to communicate with Chinese authorities of different levels by expressing protest and demanding China to immediately withdraw its drilling rig and its escorting vessels from the Vietnamese waters. We ask China to observe the 1982 UNCLOS; however, China [refused] to respond to Vietnam’s legitimate demand. On the contrary, it has been slandering and blaming Vietnam while continuing to use force and escalate its increasingly adventurous and serious act of intimidation and violation," Dung added.

Dung appeared to be reporting to the audience -- which includes some of the wealthiest and most powerful businessmen in the region, about what he believes are the illegal activities of China, one of the world's largest economies.

WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, for his part, said the forum is "a neutral organization and we don't take stands."

"But I appeal, on behalf of the World Economic Forum, to all parties to resort to discussions and dialogue to resolve the situation, which has potential to create a situation we all do not want to have, if you look at our future economically and politically. We are living in a global world, we need global partnerships, we need global peace," Schwab said.


The issue of inclusive growth also took people's attention.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reminded the world's wealthiest and most powerful businessmen to make sure that growth and economic progress will leave no one behind.

Yudhoyono spoke after President Aquino touted his administration's gains and high economic growth rate.

Yudhoyono, Aquino, Dung, and Myanmar's Vice-President U Nyan Tun addressed the opening plenary.

“I must add that economic growth and equitable progress are not necessarily the same thing,” Yudhoyono said. "It doesn’t matter how many billionaires and millionaires emerge so long as those at the economic bottom also get a ladder to a better life opportunity and progress.”

He said education and entrepreneurship are key to addressing poverty.

Aquino for his part said, “Our country is in the midst of a dramatic turnaround in every sector, and we are intent on continuing this trend and making certain that each and every Filipino enjoys the full dividends of progress. All signs for the future are pointing upwards."

Tun, meanwhile, said, “Positive relationships between Asian nations can lead to increased economic growth.”

Aquino, also again lashed out at former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“During the martial law years, our fate became dependent on the will and the whims of a dictator who put himself ahead of all other considerations. In 2010, it was once again the collective efforts of our people that helped me get elected me into office, after they took a stand, and firmly decided to turn their back on almost a decade of corruption and impunity—a decade of lost opportunities," he said.

"My predecessor is now undergoing hospital arrest as she undergoes two serious charges, with another being evaluated by the Ombudsman. The Congress and the Senate removed a Chief Justice from office for failing to declare over 98 percent of his assets in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth contrary to our Constitution and our laws."


The Philippines has been recognized for its high economic growth rate, but some analysts are skeptical.

Kevin Lu, a distinguished fellow at INSEAD business school, said that while the Philippines is seeing positive momentum, there are risks and uncertainties in policies that have to be addressed.

He said policies should be further streamlined to attract more foreign investments.

"There is still a fairly strong sense from foreign investors that there is regulatory and policy uncertainty," Lu said at the first session of the WEF on Thursday.

Karim Raslan, the chief executive of Malaysia's KRA Group, said some foreign investors see the Philippines as quite "tricksy."

"I have a lot of friends who are looking or who have bought assets here and generally they find the Filipino market it's quite 'tricksy'. More difficult than Indonesia, to be frank. That is something to be borne in mind. The size of the market is that much smaller, and if it's that more tricksy, then that's something to know," he said.

Raslan added that more improvement is needed in key sectors like infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

He also highlighted the potential of tourism and how it can boost the country's economy if maximized.

"This is something that is still not sufficiently known outside the Philippines. The islands are beautiful, the waters are beautiful, you still need to push that more," he said.- With report from Jon Carlos Rodriguez,