President Rodrigo Duterte will finally raise the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute when he goes to Beijing this month, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing today.
“This is pursuant to what he said the first time he visited… China. He said there will be a time when I will raise this issue. The time has come,” Panelo said, grinning at reporters. The Spokesperson said he asked the President about the matter on Monday.
Panelo said Duterte would bring up the controversial 2016 ruling of an international tribunal in The Hague in a one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, although there is no date yet for the working visit to Beijing.
The President will also push for 60-40 sharing in a joint oil and gas exploration agreement with China and seek a resolution to the controversial Recto Bank incident where a Chinese vessel rammed into a Philippine fishing boat and then abandoned the fishermen at sea last June.
“Sinong responsible doon? Ano bang compensation doon? Kasama yun (Who’s responsible for that, what will be the compensation there, that’s included),” Panelo said.
The Spokesperson said Duterte would discuss all outstanding bilateral issues with Xi.
The President first visited China in October 2016, and had since vowed to raise the arbitral ruling with Xi before his term ends in 2022. But until now Duterte had refused to mention the decision which Beijing does not recognize, saying he could not go to war with China.
The landmark ruling recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in some areas within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. It invalidated China’s sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including areas the Philippines either claims or occupies in the West Philippine Sea, where Bejing has built artificial islands, denied entry to Filipino fishermen, and interfered in oil exploration activities.
During their bilateral meeting in 2016, Xi had warned Duterte that there would be “trouble” if the Philippines would push through with oil exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte earlier invoked the arbitration ruling when the country protested the swarming of over 200 Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island in the disputed Spratlys, but this would be the first time he would discuss all these sensitive issues with Xi, whose friendship he has nurtured.