Duterte calls on China to let Pinoys fish in West Philippine Sea
MANILA — President Duterte called on Beijing to let Filipino fishermen enter the fishing grounds in the disputed West Philippine Sea after an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines.
Stopping short of saying that China must comply with the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the tough-talking Chief Executive maintained that the country should continue holding bilateral talks with Beijing.
“It’s about time that they should consider returning the privilege of the Filipinos to fish there,” the President said in a chance interview with reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday.
“China should be hearing us out. (It’s) about time that you lift the ban to tourists and allow the Filipinos to fish there,” he added.
He said former President Fidel Ramos, whom he designated as the country’s special envoy to China, “did a very good job” during his brief informal meeting in Hong Kong with representatives of the Chinese government.
Mr. Duterte said the Philippines, on its own, would not bring up the arbitral court’s ruling in the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos next month.
“But if somebody would dwell on it, we will discuss… If you stop the bilateral (talks), where will we be headed? It’s better to continually engage China in a diplomatic dialogue rather than anger,” he said.
Asked about China’s condition not to use the international court’s decision in the bilateral negotiations between Beijing and Manila, he said: “No, there’s always a time for that. That’s impossible.”
“(We will bring that up when) we are face to face and we come up with hard facts,” the President said.
He said he might also consider flying to China for a state visit “if it is to the interest of the nation.” SFM
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