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Philippines unlikely to be rice self-sufficient, says Duterte

‘Bring China to court for reef destruction’

MANILA, June 13, (RTRS): A Philippine Supreme Court judge has called on the government to bring China to court for violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with the destruction of coral reefs in a disputed part of the South China Sea.

Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s business-focused rapprochement with China, said the government should seek arbitration and compensation from China.

It was not clear what prompted Carpio’s call but broadcaster GMA News reported on Monday that Chinese fishermen had harvested giant clams and destroyed coral reefs in Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop, 200 km (124 miles) from the Philippines, claimed by both China and the Philippines.

“The Philippines should demand damages from China for the destruction of the coral reefs by Chinese fishermen in harvesting the giant clams,” Carpio said in a statement dated Tuesday. The Philippine national security adviser confirmed the report about the Chinese activity on the resource-rich shoal which China seized in 2012.It then blocked Philippine fishermen from approaching the area. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the government would rather discuss the coral destruction with China than file a case as that would only “reverse our diplomatic gains”.

Relations between China and the Philippines have improved markedly under Duterte, while his ties with the United States have been strained, after he objected to US concerns about rights violations in the course of his campaign against drugs. China allowed Philippine fishermen back onto the shoal in late 2016. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Carpio’s call.

The Philippines is unlikely to become self-sufficient in rice production, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, appearing to contradict his agriculture minister who had set a 2020 target to produce enough rice to meet the country’s needs.

The Southeast Asian country is a frequent buyer of rice mainly from Vietnam and Thailand, usually importing more than one million tonnes of the staple grain every year to meet domestic demand and maintain stockpiles. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiÏol said last year the country could produce enough rice for its own needs by 2020 with the help of free irrigation and other state measures to boost output. “I do not believe we can be rice sufficient,” Duterte said in a speech to officials of state universities at the presidential palace. “If you’d ask me, in the next how many years, we will just have to import rice,” Duterte said.

The Philippines’ interior ministry said on Wednesday it plans to acquire pistols for community leaders willing to fight crime and drugs, prompting concern it could fuel even more violence in the country’s notoriously bloody crackdown. President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was considering arming community leaders, known as barangay captains, after consulting with the police and intelligence community. He last week vowed to provide the same legal protection to barangay captains as he did soldiers or police, and they “will never go to jail” if they shot suspected criminals in the performance of their duty. Martin Dino, the interior department undersecretary responsible for the country’s 42,000 barangays, said handguns would be provided for free, or private purchases subsidised, but only for barangay captains not involved in illegal drugs. Duterte has repeatedly said thousands of community officials were involved in the trade, without elaborating.

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