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Xi won’t budge as Duterte pushes arbitral ruling

August 30, 2019 - Friday 9:08 AM by Jon Joaquin

Article Banner Image STILL FRIENDS. President Rodrigo Duterte and People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping show their strong ties prior to the start of the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. ROBINSON NINAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte made good on his promise to raise the West Philippine Sea issue to Chinese President Xi Jinping, insisting on the latter that the ruling held by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague “is final, binding, and not subject to appeal.”

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, however, said Xi, in response, “reiterated his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling as well as not budging from its position.”

In a statement, Panelo said the exchange happened in a “productive” bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guest House where both leaders “discussed the comprehensive strategic cooperation between their respective nations.”

Duterte, who is on an official visit to China, was “steadfast in raising with President Xi concerns central to the Philippines' claim in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” Panelo said.

Despite their varying positions on the issue, Panelo said Duterte and Xi agreed that their differences “need not derail or diminish the amity between the two countries.”

“They shared the view that the contentious issue is not the sum total of the Philippines-Chinese bilateral relationship,” he said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping discuss matters during the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. ROBINSON NINAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“They likewise are on the same page on the belief that the foundation and future of their countries’ friendship cannot be anchored to their respective positions on the subject, and that the basis of their ties is their centuries old friendship as well as the benefits that will redound to their peoples by virtue of their cooperation,” he added.

Panelo said one of the things the two did agree on was Duterte’s push for the crafting of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“Chinese President Xi agreed with President Duterte that there is a need for the formulation of the Code of Conduct and it should be crafted within the last remaining years of PRRD (Duterte’s initials),” he said.

“With the Philippines as the designated country coordinator of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, the Filipino head of state articulated his firm belief that the Code of Conduct would contribute in the resolution of numerous conflicts in the disputed areas of the South China Sea,” he added.

Panelo said the two leaders agreed to work together, on the basis of mutual trust and good faith, to manage the South China Sea issue, and to continue to dialogue peacefully in resolving the conflict.

He also said Duterte and Xi agreed on the importance of self-restraint and respect for freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.

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