PH, China turn to 'peaceful' maritime talks anew after deadlock

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2019 03:01 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for posterity prior to the start of their bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. Robinson Ninal, Presidential Photo

MANILA- The Philippines and China have agreed to resume "peaceful" dialogue on disputes in the South China Sea as both nations insisted on their respective maritime claims.

President Rodrigo Duterte failed to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to recognize Manila's legal victory over the disputed waters, a development that the Philippine leader may have expected, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said Friday.

"From the very start that, was their (China) position even prior to the visit. But nevertheless, as he committed himself to the Filipino people and to Mr. Xi himself, he raised the [ruling]," Panelo told reporters.

"They both agreed after that, that the conflict issue should not be the sum total of the relationship between the 2 countries. But at the same time, continue with the dialogue peacefully on that issue," he said.

Manila in 2016 won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. 

China has refused to recognize the ruling, which was handed down at the start of Duterte's presidency.

Since 2017, the Philippines and China have held talks on maritime disputes through the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea.

Aside from the Philippines, the Asian economic giant faces conflicting claims with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

'NO OFFENSE'

But even as Beijing refused to recognize Manila's legal victory, Xi took no offense in President Duterte's assertion of the ruling.

"The President of China said that he was not offended by the President [of the Philippines] raising that issue," Panelo said.

Duterte, according to his spokesman, raised the ruling "unequivocally, assertively, but friendly."

"Obviously the two have mutual respect for one another, if not admiration," Panelo said.

Both Manila and Beijing also agreed to refrain from committing "aggressive, provocative" acts in the disputed waters to ease tensions in the area, Panelo explained.

Asked whether Manila is still hoping for Beijing's recognition of its maritime claims, Panelo said: "Nothing is impossible between friends, we can always hope for the best."

"The ruling is permanent whether they like it or not, it’s there," Panelo said.