By Helen Flores
MANILA, Philippines - People from claimant-states in the South China Sea will suffer if they take a hard stance with China, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said yesterday, as former diplomats and experts expressed concern over Beijing’s continued island-building activities in and militarization of the disputed waters.
“In the West Philippine Sea, our neighbors are also claimants. If we go harsh with everyone, our people will suffer – trade, direct foreign investments, tourism,” Cayetano said at the “ASEAN at 50: The Way Forward” forum in Makati City.
The Philippines under President Duterte, he pointed out, seeks to “build more bridges of understanding” to attain peace and stability in the region.
China claims about 90 percent of the entire South China Sea but this is being contested by Taiwan and four ASEAN members – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The two-day forum, organized by the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development, Center for Strategic and International Studies and Stratbase ADR Institute, was attended by diplomats and policy experts from ASEAN member-countries as well as non-ASEAN nations, including the US, Australia and South Korea.
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