PH trusts China will have 'open ears' on maritime dispute talks

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 28 2019 02:55 PM

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, before the meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China on April 25, 2019. Kenzaburo Fukuhara, Pool via Reuters/File

MANILA- The Philippines said it was hopeful that China would have "open ears" when leaders begin discussions on how to resolve tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

Regardless of whether China likes it or not, President Rodrigo Duterte will raise Manila's rights over the West Philippine Sea, its exclusive economic zone in the disputed waters, his spokesperson said Wednesday.

"I think China will have open ears. After all, they kept on saying they are friends and friends can always talk about anything," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in Beijing.

"We do not know how China will take it but I suppose, as I said earlier, they are open to that, whether they like it or not, we really have to talk about it," he said.

Duterte, who will hold bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday, is expected to assert the Philippines' victory in a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal which invalidated China's sweeping claims over the resource-rich waters.

Recent months have seen the Philippines asserting its rights over the West Philippine Sea, with diplomatic protests filed against Beijing's incursions.

China, however, has remained firm on its rejection of the Philippines' arbitral victory.

"It's really time they talk about it because if the concern is maritime security and peace in the region., then they really have to talk because this has been a source of some irritants," Panelo said.

Aside from the arbitral ruling, Panelo said Duterte would also discuss the code of conduct on the South China Sea, and would push for a joint oil and gas exploration with Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte had welcomed China's proposal of a 60-40 joint oil and gas exploration deal, in favor of the Philippines.

- With a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News