PH, China agree to resolve South China Sea ‘irritants’
MANILA, Philippines — China is open to resolving through bilateral negotiations the “irritants and challenges” stemming from its dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte brought up the territorial dispute with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing last week, but the specifics of the conflict were not discussed.
“What the President mentioned [were] the irritants. [They refer] to everything there. From the presence of the ships, from the alleged harassment, all of it — the irritants,” Panelo said at a press briefing.
“Both sides repeated their previous positions on the matter, and they both agreed that whatever irritants, challenges, [these] can be resolved through negotiation,” he added.
Quoting the President, Panelo said the irritants arose from the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.
“And both of them agreed that the mechanism of bilateral relations will be used to resolve the conflict,” he said.
The Palace issued the statement a day after Mr. Duterte returned from Beijing, where he attended the Belt and Road Forum.
Prior to the President’s trip, the Department of Foreign Afffairs lodged a diplomatic protest against Beijing over the presence of Chinese vessels near Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
Xi told President Duterte he did not recognize the arbitral ruling, Panelo said.
But the two leaders, he said, agreed to discuss the specifics of the maritime row as well as the arbitral ruling in the next session of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea, which the Philippines and China set up in 2016.
“That would be discussed there, it will be more specific there. Bilaterals usually dwell on general issues, both of them are reading their messages,” Panelo said, referring to Mr. Duterte and Xi. —Julie M. Aurelio