BEIJING—President Rodrigo Duterte brought up the Philippines’ arbitral win to Chinese President Xi Jinping, as Duterte asserted the country’s territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
This happened during the Philippine-China bilateral meeting Wednesday, where both leaders reaffirmed their resolve to address territorial matters through diplomatic dialogue, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said on Saturday.
The President supposedly deviated from a prepared speech, to bring up the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa island.
“Arbitral ruling was mentioned. (Duterte) said ‘I will bring up the arbitral ruling in another 2 years,’ but by saying so, what message was he putting across?’” Esperon said.
During the meeting, which Esperon described as “very frank, very substantive, and very productive,” the official said Duterte was “very firm” in taking care of the country’s national interests.
“I think this is the best bilateral that the President has had so far with President Xi Jinping. There were things that he said that I thought he would not say,” Esperon said.
The Chinese leader, however, reportedly responded by pointing out that China does not recognize the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which effectively invalidated his country’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
“It means that we keep to our positions, if they keep to their positions, let it be,” Esperon said. “But let us continue, even improve on the things that we are doing together. It’s not all war, in fact that should be the last resort.”
Duterte had in the past refused to bring up the arbitral ruling, in favor of improved relations with China.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana earlier said both countries expect the easing of tensions in Pag-asa island following the talks between two leaders.