MANILA— The Philippines will "move on" with trade and investments with China, Malacañang said Thursday as it shielded renewed economic ties with the economic superpower from President Rodrigo Duterte's historic assertion of Manila's sea rights before the United Nations.
Duterte, in his first speech before the UN assembly, said the Philippines "firmly rejects" any attempt to undermine the award that invalidated China's sweeping claims over the West Philippine Sea. Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.
"The President has been consistent. We will move on matters that we could move forward on including trade and investments," Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
"We will, for the time being, set this aside because I don't think the resolution of the territorial dispute is forthcoming in our lifetime," he added.
While Duterte's speech has been praised by both his critics and allies, Roque said it was simply a reiteration of the government's existing policies and positions.
"Wala naman pong bagong polisiyang binanggit ang ating Presidente," Roque said.
(The President did not mention any new policy.)
"Dahil ito po'y mga kasalukuyan nang polisiya ng Presidente, wala naman pong magbabago doon sa ating mga polisiya lalung-lalo na doon sa ating bilateral relations with China," he added.
(Because these are existing policies of the President, there will be no changes especially when it comes to our bilateral relations with China.)
The 75-year-old Philippine leader surprised the country and the world when he used his debut at the UN assembly to assert Manila's arbitral victory over China on the South China Sea dispute in a move that could influence other nations to do the same.
The July 2016 ruling invalidated China's sweeping 9-dash line claim over the resource-rich waters.
Since assuming power in 2016, Duterte has refused to flaunt Manila's victory as he opted to pursue vibrant trade and investments with China.
In his State of the Nation Address this year, Duterte even said he was “inutile” in the face of China’s claim of the territory, adding that diplomatic relations should be pursued with the global power unless the country was ready to go to war.