Chinese ships in Davao a sign of thanks for ASEAN 'pass': ex-envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2017 10:37 AM

Chinese Navy officers walk past a Chinese naval ship on a visit to Davao city, southern Philippines. Reuters

MANILA - China sent its warships to Davao to express its gratitude to the Philippines for the non-mention of its arbitration win when Southeast Asia leaders met here last week, a former Philippine ambassador said Monday.

This is the first time a Chinese warship has docked in Philippine shores and it happened especially after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, noted former Ambassador Apolinario Lozada Jr.

"The greater message behind the three powerful warships of China is ‘Thank you, Philippines'," he said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

"They have never done this. They’re supposed to have a cover of saying they’re going to all the other countries, but why is the Philippines the first one? And I don’t think they’re going to dock in Indonesia anyway or Singapore," he added.

A Chinese frigate, a guided missile destroyer, and a replenishment ship docked in President Rodrigo Duterte's home province, Davao, on Sunday, a day after the Southeast Asian leaders met and hours after their statement was released to the public.

The communique, released early morning Sunday, made no mention of China's militarization of reclaimed islands, nor of Beijing's diplomatic loss via the arbitral ruling.

Instead, it mentioned commitment to "universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."

Chinese sailors are pictured on the deck of a Chinese naval ship during a visit to Davao city, southern Philippines. Reuters

Lozada said delegates from Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia were willing to include the South China Sea issue, where several ASEAN countries have overlapping claims with China, but was "thumbed down by Philippine delegation because they have to follow instructions."

"I think we have given China a pass here. This is quite disgusting sense that this is the first big conference that we have the opportunity to really pull China’s attention and say ‘We’re not going to war with you, but we would like to let you know our concerns,'" he said.