CHINESE President Xi Jinping on Thursday refused to recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling that voided China’s claims to more than 80% of the South China Sea even as his “old friend” Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte insisted that the decision was “final, binding and not subject to appeal.”
The two leaders had a bilateral meeting in Beijing on Thursday where they discussed various issues of mutual interest, including the recurring conflict in the South China Sea.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said Mr. Duterte was “steadfast” in raising with Mr. Xi concerns regarding the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea, which include the ruling held by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
“He said that the arbitral award is final, binding and not subject to appeal,” Mr. Panelo said.
“In response, President Xi reiterated his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling as well as not budging from its position,” he added.
Mr. Duterte also brought up delays in the completion of the South China Sea Code of Conduct.
The Chinese President agreed that the code of conduct “should be crafted within the remaining years” of Mr. Duterte’s administration, the spokesman said. “Both 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.”
Mr. Duterte also raised the planned joint oil exploration in the disputed area. Mr. Xi said a steering committee has been created to prepare a substantive program on the matter, Mr. Panelo noted.
As for the June 9 Reed Bank incident where a Chinese boat sank a Philippine fishing boat and abandoned the crew in the sea, Mr. Panelo said the Philippine President took note of the fact that China has “recognized and confirmed” the responsibility of the Chinese fishing crew, adding that he also expressed his appreciation of China’s readiness to provide compensation to the Filipino fishermen involved in the incident.
At a televised press briefing from Beijing on Friday afternoon, Mr. Panelo said Mr. Xi, during the meeting, also expressed appreciation for the Philippine government’s move to suspend the acceptance of new applications for offshore gaming licenses.
Mr. Xi said they would appreciate it more if the Chinese-dominated Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) will be eliminated, the spokesman noted.
Mr. Panelo added: “I remember President Xi saying about loan interest. He said he will refer it to the appropriate body whether it can be done, to lower it.”
Mr. Duterte, described by Mr. Xi as his “old friend,” was on his fifth visit to China since he assumed office in 2016. It was also his eight meeting with Mr. Xi. — Arjay L. Balinbin