DFA: Duterte call to discuss Hague ruling
It’s up to President Duterte if he would actually raise the international arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippines Sea in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, Foreign Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said on Friday.
Mr. Duterte, who had been criticized even by his political allies for adopting an appeasement policy in dealing with the country’s territorial dispute with China, had earlier said the time was ripe for him to bring up with Xi Manila’s historic win over Beijing in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.
He will be flying to China on Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 for his fifth visit to Beijing and his eighth meeting with the Chinese leader since becoming President in 2016.
Only President knows
Notoriously known as a loudmouth, Mr. Duterte had previously made bold pronouncements, such as his failed campaign promise to end the country’s drug problem in “three to six months,” but took back his words later.
If he would really mention the arbitral ruling in his bilateral talks with Xi, only the President would know, according to Montealegre.
“I think that’s the President’s prerogative, to discuss the particular issue. At the same time, he already made a pronouncement on this particular matter,” Montealegre said at a press briefing in Malacañang.
“So it’s the President’s call to discuss this specific issue,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of the Chief Executive making good on his word this time, the foreign assistant secretary said: “We cannot preempt what the President will discuss in particular regarding the arbitral ruling.”
He added that China has yet to raise any opposition regarding the President’s plan.
Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje said the meeting between the two leaders on Aug. 29 will also be a venue for the President to discuss other issues concerning the Philippines and China besides their maritime row over the South China Sea
When sought for a more definite answer on the possibility of Mr. Duterte speaking about the PCA decision in his five-day visit, Borje said: “The President has said that he will raise the issue.”
Montealegre said Mr. Duterte and Xi would be present at the signing of several “cooperative bilateral documents and memoranda of understanding” intended to “further increase the breadth and depth of our cooperation between the Philippines and China.”
“President Duterte looks forward to exchanging views with President Xi on how to accelerate the pace of our functional cooperation in terms of concrete projects as well as on issues of mutual interest to both countries,” he added.
Meanwhile, Borje said the initial plan for the President to visit a school building in Fujian province built in honor of his late mother, Soledad Duterte, had been shelved due to “logistical” reasons.
“It’s a decision… made mutually (by both governments),” Borje said. “It’s been postponed… There are certain things that need to be done further.”
Added Montealegre: “I think it’s not appropriate [to visit Fujian] at this time. I don’t know [the exact reason]. It was just postponed for [a] more appropriate period in the future.”
Watch Gilas game
After drawing brickbats for his remarks playing down the chances of Gilas Pilipinas winning over Italy, Mr. Duterte would personally watch the game between the Philippine men’s basketball team and their Italian rivals on Aug. 31 in Guangzhou.
“President Duterte will personally cheer for Gilas Pilipinas in our scheduled game against the Italian team,” Montealegre said, adding that Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan would accompany Mr. Duterte in his Guangzhou visit.