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Duterte hopes for success in sea talks with China

BEIJING – President Duterte looks forward to “productive discussions” in the bilateral consultative mechanism on the South China Sea dispute to be held in Beijing next week.

Duterte called for a peaceful resolution of the disputes over territories in the South China Sea during his expanded bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping after the two-day Belt and Road Forum here.

“Since my state visit last year, the Philippines and China have seen the valued friendships become stronger,” he said.

Duterte then voiced his wish for “deeper” relations with Beijing while announcing positive developments arising from the creation of a bilateral consultative mechanism, a forum for discussing and finding ultimate solution to the South China Sea dispute.

“I look forward to productive discussions today to continue this positive engagement to further deepen our relations,” he said.

“We have resumed our regular dialogue mechanism. The Foreign Ministry consultations was finally reconvened in Manila this year to strengthen ties and to make use of that mechanism,” he said.

Duterte also stressed it is “important to keep our communication lines open.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Chinese foreign ministry are meeting for the inaugural Bilateral Consultative Mechanism next week here.

“This is one step towards peacefully engaging disputes and I hope that the inaugural meeting... on May 19th will be a success,” he said.

Duterte also congratulated Xi for the Belt and Road Forum. “We must have these and other fora of constructive engagement with the larger world. But we must certainly continue to strengthen our bilateral relations,” he said.

He added he was “pleased to be back in China to renew our nation’s ties of friendship.”

The President said he was eager to discuss further expanding and deepening bilateral cooperation in pursuit of shared goals.

Duterte held separate bilateral meetings last night with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Xi in a show of strengthened relations between the two countries despite the South China Sea issue.

The meetings took place at the Great Hall of the People after the conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum.

In his opening statement during the expanded meeting with Li, Duterte said he was “pleased to be back” in China before the event was closed to the media.

Duterte and Xi also witnessed the signing of Memorandums of Agreement on economic and technical cooperation between the Department of Finance and Ministry of Commerce, human resource development between National Economic and Development Authority and the Ministry of Commerce, energy cooperation between Department of Energy and the Chinese Administration of Energy and a cooperation on news and publicity between the Presidential Communications Operations Office and China International Publishing Corp.

Firm on sovereignty

Philippine officials attending the Belt and Road Initiative here, meanwhile, have stressed the Duterte administration will not surrender the country’s sovereignty over areas disputed with China in the West Philippine Sea despite his much-touted pivot to Beijing.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Sen. Alan Cayetano and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez have also expressed optimism that next week’s bilateral consultative mechanism aimed at solving the South China Sea dispute would have a favorable outcome.

“We are very optimistic. The fact that they are willing to talk to us bilaterally is a very good development,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of the forum.

Cayetano, recently appointed as foreign affairs secretary, said it’s Duterte’s position that “we keep our national interest in mind in dealing with the South China issue.”

“But let me just say it will remove walls. So from a wall, there will now be a bridge. But we don’t expect moving mountains,” he said.

“So, it’s the same thing with the disputes that we have now, not only with China but with others. We’re trying to create the environment where we can talk and then hopefully, God willing, achieve the immediate goals we want, then the long-term goals,” he added.

Lopez, for his part, stressed the importance of timing in invoking the ruling of the UN-backed arbitral tribunal that invalidated China’s massive claims and reaffirmed the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.

“Timing is really important and I think we can really trust on the wisdom of our President as to when is the proper time,” he said. “But at the moment, for the benefit of our country, our people, our prosperity, progress, we should set aside (the ruling) first.”

Another official, Evangeline Ong Jimenez-Docroqc, head of Asia and Pacific Affairs at the DFA, cited the importance of the bilateral consultative mechanism, saying it was an offshoot of Duterte’s state visit here last October.

“As our good ambassador (Chito Sta. Romana) has already explained several times, we are separating the tracks where we cooperate very well and of course we also have issues between ourselves and that’s where we put it, and these issues are usually on the South China Sea,” she said.

The consultative mechanism is “the venue where we will be discussing these issues both in terms of our concerns, respective concerns, and in where we can cooperate,” Jimenez-Docroqc said.

“Of course, we keep in mind that our disputes in the South China Sea, there’s one part that’s purely bilateral but there’s also parts of our dispute that concern many claimants, not only the Philippines and China,” she said.

‘Personal advocacy’

Meanwhile, Cayetano clarified yesterday that former speaker and now special envoy for intercultural dialogue Jose de Venecia was expressing his “personal advocacy” when he called for the forging of an agreement with China and Vietnam for joint oil exploration in the Kalayaan Island group or the Spratlys.

“If you look at the statements of former speaker De Venecia when he was still speaker, his ideas are consistent with that,” he told a press briefing.

But Cayetano also made it clear he was expressing his views as chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs as he has not yet taken his oath as DFA chief.

“But it does not mean that that is the direction of our government because we are bound by the Constitution and our own laws. So, there are ideas that are practical but not necessarily legal,” Cayetano added.

Duterte hopes for success in sea talks with China Duterte hopes for success in sea talks with China Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 1:40:00 AM Rating: 5

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