DFA: No objection from China to plan to raise arbitral ruling

CHINA has not expressed any opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to discuss with Chinese President Xi Jinping the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea.

"We have not heard of any," Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said during a pre-departure briefing on Duterte's fifth visit to China, when asked if Beijing is opposed to the President's intent to raise the sea ruling with Xi.

"I think that's the President's prerogative to discuss the particular issue. At the same time, he already made pronouncement on this particular matter. So it's the President's call to discuss this specific issue," he added.

Duterte is scheduled to visit China on August 28 for an official visit.

In a speech delivered on August 21, the President assured the Filipinos that whether China "likes it or not," he would assert the Manila's historic win against Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands in July 2016,.

On July 12, 2016, the arbitral court ruled in favor of the Philippines's petition, after it said China has no legal basis to lay claim to almost 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Cooperation deals

Duterte's upcoming visit to China will be his fifth since he assumed office in 2016.

Montealegre said Duterte and Xi would hold a bilateral meeting to discuss both nations' accomplishments and shared goals under the Comprehesive Strategic Cooperation.

"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," the Foreign Affairs official said.

Montealegre likewise noted that the two leaders would witness the signing of "a number" of bilateral documents and memoranda of understanding that are aimed at "further increasing the breadth and depth of cooperation between the Philippines and China."

He, however, cannot give specific details on the exact number of bilateral arrangements that will be signed by the two countries.

"Well, there are several agreements that are in the pipeline. Some of them are in the final stages of vetting but I cannot give you specific number," he said.

"It pertains to education, science and technology, and economic and social development. So those are the agreements," Montealegre added.

Fujian visit postponed

Meanwhile, the President's scheduled visit to Fujian province in China would be postponed to a "more appropriate time."

Duterte had announcedvthat he would go to Fujian to lead the inauguration of a school named after his mother, Soledad.

Palace Chief of Presidential Protocol Robert Borje said the President would no longer visit Fujian because of "logistical" issues.

"The schedule of the President is always a work in progress. There are times when the windows are given and sometimes the schedule or the window that is given is about eight days, six days, whatever it is. Sometimes the window shortens for reasons that are maybe logistical in nature, sometimes it's substantive, sometimes it's also due to domestic issues," Borje said.

"But for this particular visit, there was a plan and then the recommendation now is to move it at a later date because it's more appropriate to be done at a later date and not at this particular time," he added.

During Duterte's stay in China, he would receive a courtesy call from Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Montealegre said.

Duterte and Wang would discuss ways to strengthen cooperation on trade and investment, as well as to deepen friendship between Manila and Beijing.

Montealegre said the President would also attend a business forum organized by the Department of Trade and Industry.

He added that Duterte would also cheer for Gilas Pilipinas who will compete against Italy in the FIBA World Cup that will be held in Guangzhou province on August 31. (SunStar Philippines)


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