MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte "is not giving up" on the Scarborough Shoal despite his earlier decision to set aside the United Nations' arbitral ruling on disputed territories, palace officials said Wednesday.
"He (Duterte) says he’s not giving up on the matter, but it will be set aside for, for conversation someday," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Duterte has been keen on staying in neutral ground as international powers criticized China after it installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.
The United States has criticized what it called China's militarization of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them, angering Beijing.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has also criticized Chinese behavior in the South China Sea while signaling he may adopt a tougher approach to China's assertive behavior in the region than President Barack Obama.