MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday revealed that the Philippines and China will hold bilateral talks on May 19 to resolve the territorial dispute between the two countries over islands in the South China Sea.
Duterte said he and Xi discussed the dispute when they met at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at the end of the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation organized by China.
Duterte attended the forum after coming from a state visit in Cambodia and dropping by Hong Kong.
During the meeting, Duterte told Xi: “It is important to keep our communication lines open. I am pleased that we have established a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea. This is one step forward toward peacefully engaging disputes and I hope the inaugural meeting will be a success.”
Meanwhile, former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who is now special envoy for multicultural dialogue, called for a joint exploration and development by Manila and Beijing of the Spratly islands, which incoming Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano dismissed as a personal stand of de Venecia and not of the government.
Beijing has claimed most of the South China Sea as part of its territory but other countries like the Philippines and Vietnam have also staked claims on the area.
The UN Arbitral Tribunal ruled last year in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case filed by Manila against Beijing. The court said the Philippines has exclusive sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea in the South China Sea and declared as invalid China’s “nine-dash line”.
When Duterte assumed office, he backed out from pursuing the implementation of the UN tribunal’s ruling on the case. GAC/Expat Media
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