MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte might discuss the West Philippine Sea dispute and the proposed joint oil exploration with China when he flies to Beijing again later this month, Malacañang said Monday.
Duterte, who is set to visit China for the 5th time since assuming the presidency, may discuss "issues of conflict" when he meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
"That could be part of the discussion," Panelo said when asked on whether the maritime dispute and the joint oil exploration would be tackled.
Duterte's working visit to China this month is his second trip to the Asian economic giant this year. He went to China last April.
"If it’s [a] working [visit], then it refers to discussions with the visited country relative to issues that affect both," Panelo said.
Aside from issues of conflict, Panelo said the 2 leaders will also deal with matters on terrorism, illegal drugs, cultural exchanges, people-to-people ties, and financing.
Duterte's visit comes as his dealings with Beijing came under close scrutiny in light of rising maritime tensions.
During his fourth State of the Nation Address, President Duterte promised Filipinos that the government would stand up for the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea in “due time" or once the oil exploration with China begins.
"The West Philippine Sea is ours, no ifs and buts...We have to temper it with the times and the realities we face today," Duterte said in his fourth SONA.
The Philippine leader has come under fire over a verbal agreement with Xi on fishing in disputed waters just weeks after a Chinese ship hit and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the area, which he called a simple maritime incident.
Since assuming the presidency in 2016, Duterte has refused to invoke the Philippines' victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court which was initiated by his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III.