MALACAÑANG yesterday further raised expectations President Rodrigo Duterte would discuss the landmark ruling on the South China Sea when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month.
“His trip to China now, to him, it’s the right time to raise the arbitration ruling,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters at a forum in Quezon City.
“There will be a time when I will invoke that arbitral ruling. This is the time that’s why I’m going there,” Duterte had told Panelo last August 6.
Panelo revealed Duterte sought to raise the ruling given that he only had three years left in his term.
The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 handed a sweeping victory to the Philippines when the tribunal invalidated China’s claims to nearly the entire South China Sea and clarified Manila’s maritime entitlements.
Duterte had also promised to discuss the June 9 Recto Bank ramming, as well as the 60-40 sharing arrangement in the proposed joint oil exploration in the South China Sea.
Malacañang has said it stands by the arbitral ruling after Beijing’s envoy said their position on the matter remained the same.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua indicated last week that Beijing will continue not to recognize the Philippines’ victory at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“And neither are we changing our position, too. But it doesn’t mean that as friends, we cannot discuss that issue. It has to be discussed, that is precisely why there is a mechanism for negotiation. There are things we can agree upon, there are differences that we may not. But that does not preclude both countries to raise that issue and discuss amicably,” Panelo has said in response.
Earlier, Panelo said Duterte “will not alter his position on the matter in the same way that the Chinese government as it says will not.”
Panelo added that he has relayed the Philippines position to Zhao through a text message. He said Zhao responded by inviting him to a “working dinner.”