Duterte expects bilateral talks with China to start 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration is inching closer to bilateral talks with China after a historic ruling that rejected Beijing's claim over the West Philippine Sea.
In an ambush interview on Tuesday, August 23, President Rodrigo Duterte said bilateral talks may start within the year.
Asked if there already is a date for the start of the talks, Duterte said, “Yes. Nearer than you think. Within the year, maybe.”
“President Ramos did a very good job there but China should be hearing us out now,” Duterte told Palace reporters.
The Duterte administration’s reaching out to China comes after an international court’s ruling that nullified China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) – a big victory for the Philippines.
But Duterte previously said he won’t bring up the West Philippine Sea dispute in the upcoming ASEAN Summit, unless another country brings it up. He said he would rather talk to China about it face to face.
Asked if the Philippine government would raise the issue during the first meeting with China, Duterte only said, “There is always a time for that. It’s impossible, when we are face to face and we come up with the hard facts.”
But Ramos, following his meeting with Chinese contacts, said the Philippine government wants "two-track" talks with China that would allow them to cooperate in some areas while separately handling "contentious issues" such as the West Philippine Sea dispute.
But the President said he is eager to engage Beijing in a dialogue, especially on pressing issues like the rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“It’s about time they should consider returning the privileges of the Filipinos to fish there,” said Duterte.
Filipino fishermen currently face aggression from Chinese coast guard vessels that continue to sail in the West Philippine Sea.
China has rejected the international ruling and has said it would not enter into bilateral talks that use the ruling as its starting point. – Rappler.com