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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC



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Philippines Inaugurates New President

Jun. 30, 2016

Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines' new president on Thursday in Manila.

He has pledged to eliminate the crime and poverty that continues to plague one of the fastest-growing economies in the region.

"Love of country, subordination of personal interests for the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished -- these are among the laws and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines," Duterte said.

Duterte was sworn in, wearing a plain shirt, at a simple ceremony in the Malacanang Palace.

The 71-year-old swept the election in May, capitalizing on his image as a man of the people and campaigning almost exclusively on the issues of crushing crime and poverty.

Duterte has repeatedly assured police of his full support if they kill criminals who stand in their way.

"I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal," Duterte said.

"I have seen how corruption bled the government of funds, which were allocated for the use in uplifting the poor from the mire that they are in. I have seen how illegal drugs destroy individuals and ruin family relationships."

One man who supports Duterte said he expects the new government "to create a society that's equal for everyone, even for poor people."

"I want him to eradicate corruption -- that's the priority," said a female supporter.

The level of Duterte's diplomatic skills is unknown, as the presidential campaign is his first foray into national politics.

International Court to Rule on Dispute

The Philippines is engaged in a territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea. An international court will soon issue a judgment on a case the Philippines filed over the matter.

The ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration will come on July 12. The Philippines maintains that China's claims in the sea as its historic right are groundless under international law.

It also believes artificial islands built by China cannot grant the country maritime rights, including an exclusive economic zone.

Chinese officials have repeatedly stated that the country will not accept any decision by the court.

They say the dispute should be resolved through dialogue between the concerned parties.

Signs of Change on the Front Line
Kathleen Ocampo

In contrast to the previous administration, President Duterte has said he intends to hold talks with Beijing over the dispute.

He has even said he would consider shelving territorial claims in exchange for financial aid.

Tensions on the front line appear to be softening as a result.

The Philippine coast guard took footage around Scarborough Shoal, about 200 kilometers west of Luzon Island, showing a Chinese helicopter above a Philippine research vessel. China has effectively controlled the shoal since 2012.

Residents in one village on Luzon Island make their living fishing in the waters around Scarborough Shoal.

Junmar Pumicpic is one of the fishermen. He says he feels afraid every time he goes to sea, but that he has no choice because he must feed his family.

Video footage taken by Pumicpic in April shows Filipino fishermen sailing toward the camera. Behind them lies a Chinese patrol ship.

Pumicpic says Chinese crewmen boarded a small boat before approaching his vessel. He says they then began ordering them to leave the area.

"'Go away,' they shouted at me. Then they rammed my boat several times until there was a hole in it," Pumicpic said.

Pumicpic says he has found himself in danger while fishing on the shoal. A Chinese crewman once even pulled a gun on him. But he says he began to notice a change in attitude right after the presidential election in May.

"The Chinese crews started offering us drinks and smokes. They talked to us in a very friendly way," Pumicpic says.

An editor at a local newspaper says China has softened its stance in the hopes of winning over the Duterte administration.

"The Chinese diplomats in the Philippines are going to seize an opportunity to talk to it. His diplomatic ability shows, we need, he needs advisors around him to sit down with him," says John Nery of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Pumicpic expects the situation will improve under Duterte. But, still, he says he remains concerned.

"It depends on what the new president does about our fishing grounds. If he fails in negotiations with China, I'm afraid that we'll be harassed again," Pumicpic says.

People both inside the Philippines and outside the country are closely watching to see how Duterte will handle the issue.

NHK World's Kathleen Ocampo joined anchors Sho Beppu and Aki Shibuya in the studio from Manila.

Beppu: The inauguration of President Duterte could lead to closer ties between the Philippines and China. That's likely to have a major impact on the situation in the South China Sea. Do you see that happening?

Ocampo: Well, both the Philippines and China will be attempting to feel each other out. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is scheduled to announce its ruling over the dispute in the South China Sea between the 2 countries next month. Analysts say the court is expected to rule in favor of the Philippines.

President Duterte is probably hoping to use the result to win some concessions from China. But China has constantly maintained its stance that it will ignore any decision by the court. If dialogue fails, the Philippines' relations with China may worsen.

Duterte's overall foreign policy appears uncertain. He says the Philippines will side with its ally, the US. But he also says his country has no intention of depending on the US in the long term. It looks like his policies will remain unstable for the time being.