Philippines’ Duterte to invoke arbitral ruling on West PH Sea during visit to China

  • Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to assert the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea during his dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month.
  • Other matters to be tackled will include the joint oil exploration deals between the two countries and the Recto Bank incident where a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino boat and left 22 fishermen at sea amid the territorial dispute.
  •  Duterte is expected to make a turnaround from his non-confrontation stance against China and invoke the arbitral ruling despite his friendly relations with the country since taking office in 2016.

Despite China’s continued rejection of the decision by the Hague-based court, President Rodrigo Duterte will invoke the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during his dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month.

Singapore Philippines

Photo from Philippine Star (AP/Wong Maye-E)

Malacañang said over the weekend that Duterte will continue with his negotiation with the Chinese government during his visit to the country by the end of August.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained confidence that the Philippines will be able to settle its dispute with the Asian superpower through peaceful negotiations.

“What we cannot get by invoking [the ruling], we might be able to do so through talks. Asserting something as a matter of right and principle is different from talking as friends,” Panelo said over Radyo Inquirer.

Earlier this week, the Palace said the Duterte administration would always consider what would be beneficial to the country in so far as what the terms of reference on the proposed joint oil exploration between Philippines and China would be.

Photo from Philippine Star (Etienne Oliveau/AP)

While the date of Duterte’s fifth visit to China has not been settled yet, he is expected to also raise the June 9 Recto Bank (Reed Bank) maritime incident where a Chinese vessel had rammed and abandoned a Philippine fishing boat at sea with over 22 Filipino fishermen kept afloat.

The Philippine President had repeatedly taken a soft stance in defending its rights over the West Philippine Sea, saying Manila cannot yet stand up to Beijing, whose military and economy were far superior.

Duterte said that he considers invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States and ask the country’s long-time ally to send its Seventh Fleet to the disputed waters to confront Chinese forces.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said in a chance interview on Friday that while the relationship between the two countries will remain smooth, the Chinese government will not change its stand in rejecting the arbitral ruling.

“It has been clearly stated at the very beginning of the filing of the arbitration, and when the result of the arbitration as given we also expressed that we will not accept and we will not recognize it. That position will not be changed,” Zhao said in an interview.

The last state visit of the Duterte happened in April amid controversies surrounding the administration’s non-confrontational stance on the disputed territories and its “friendly” attitude towards China.

Photo from Philippine Star

Since Duterte took office, the legal victory of the Philippines on its maritime case against Beijing has been set aside, even after the national arbitral tribunal had decided that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line.”

Critics earlier called on Duterte to make a turn around on his soft stance against China since assuming presidency in 2016.


Office of the President
The Manila Times

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