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China should define claims in South China Sea: Mahathir

Malaysian PM warns Philippines against foreigner influx

 Malaysian PM warns Philippines against foreigner influx
photo by AP photo

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sings their national anthem during the start of a business forum at the financial district of Makati, metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Thursday

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08th-Mar-2019       
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AP, Philippines :
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday that China should define its "so-called ownership" in the disputed South China Sea so other claimant countries can start to gain benefits from the resource-rich waters.
Mahathir stressed the importance of freedom of navigation in the busy waterway, saying in an interview with ABS-CBN network in Manila that if there were no restrictions "the claims made by China will not affect us very much."
Malaysia, the Philippines, China and three other governments have been locked in long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China has claimed virtually the entire sea but has refused to define the extent of its claims except for a vague line with nine dashes on its maps, complicating the disputes.
Efforts by the Philippines, for example, to explore for undersea deposits of oil and natural gas in the Reed Bank west of its Palawan island province has been stymied for years by Chinese protests and claims to the offshore region. The Philippines has declared a moratorium on exploration in the area in the past because of Chinese threats to block any such exploration.
"We have to talk to China on the definition of their claims and what is meant by their ownership or so-called ownership they claim to have so that we can find ways of deriving some benefits from them," Mahathir said.
"I think that whatever may be the claim of China, the most important thing is that the South China Sea in particular must be open to navigation," Mahathir said. "There should be no restriction, no sanction and if that happens, then I think the claims made by China will not affect us very much."
Mahathir is visiting Manila for talks with President Rodrigo Duterte and other top officials, who are to thank Malaysia for brokering peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim guerrillas in the south, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation. The rebels have become governors of a new Muslim autonomous region in the country's south under a peace deal.
The Malaysian leader, who at 93 is the world's oldest prime minister, has visited the Philippines as his country's premier in 1987 and 1994.
"I'm glad to see that, at last, peace has come to the southern Philippines. Development cannot take place in war. In war, we destroy but in peace we build," Mahathir told a business forum in Manila.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday warned the Philippines against letting in foreigners who could "disturb the political equations" as President Rodrigo Duterte's Beijing pivot sparks an influx of Chinese workers.
At least 200,000 Chinese have flocked to Manila since Duterte's 2016 election, many of them employed by online gaming firms that cater to Chinese players, a Philippine Senate inquiry was told late last year.
This has touched off concern, with some Filipino politicians alleging it drives up property prices, takes away jobs from locals and even affects tax revenues.
Mahathir, who has suspended several of his nation's major projects with China, warned during an official visit to the Philippines against allowing a surge of foreigners.
"Foreign direct investment should not involve bringing huge numbers of foreigners to live in the country because that might disturb the political equations in the country," Mahathir told ABS-CBN television in an interview.

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