China assures Philippines of Panatag access
LIMA, Peru—President Duterte on Saturday “spoke a bit” with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the territorial dispute in the South China Sea with both leaders expressing goodwill but otherwise keeping on hold discussions on major issues for now.
Mr. Duterte received an assurance from Xi that Filipino fishermen would continue to have access to their traditional fishing grounds in the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, which is currently under China’s control, said Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay.
“More than that, the Chinese have offered our fishermen opportunities for them to develop and train to make sure that their livelihood as fishermen will be strongly supported and they will be even able to engage themselves in the culturing of fishes that will sustain their families and their livelihood,” he added.
Mr. Duterte, on the other hand, sought to assure Xi of his intention to continue cooperating with China in accordance with his desire to chart an independent foreign policy.
“With my thrust of an independent foreign policy, we will find ourselves mutually agreeing in so many things and on foreign policy toward the development of Asia, strengthening of ties among the countries in the region,” he said.
The Philippine leader also reiterated his invitation to Xi to visit the Philippines at a mutually agreed date.
“We would be happy to see you in my country,” he told the Chinese president.
Xi accepted the invitation, according to Yasay.
But more significantly, he said the Chinese leader asked Mr. Duterte to take part in the next BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in September next year, which would be hosted by Xiamen.
“He had asked personally for the President to be a participant in that very important conference because of the Asean leadership that is going to be hosted by the President of the Philippines in 2017,” Yasay said.
The talks between Xi and Mr. Duterte took place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here.
Mr. Duterte also thanked Xi for the “warm hospitality and excellent arrangements” extended to the Philippine delegation during his state visit to Beijing in October.
“It was a successful visit, which opened a new chapter in the Philippine-China relations and signified our urgencies to fast-track mutually beneficial areas of cooperation,” Mr. Duterte said.
“Though it was a short visit, it has produced a lot of goodwill in my country and we hope to remain a good friend of China,” he added.
Yasay said the mood of the discussion was “very optimistic.”
“I think most of the conversation along that line was an expression of goodwill,” he said.
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