MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte assured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that “when the time comes,” the Philippines will bring up the Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with China.
“I assure you that we will be by your side and – in this side in the arbitral ruling. And you can rest assured and I give you my word that in this country, when the time comes, because we cannot escape the issue, and so I will say that, Mr Prime Minister,” said Duterte on Wednesday, October 26.
Abe was beside him as both were giving their opening statements before their expanded bilateral meeting in Tokyo, Japan.
“I cannot go out of the arbitral doctrine, I am limited to what is written there,” said Duterte.
He repeated an earlier assurance he made in front of Japanese businessmen that no military alliance was made between the Philippines and China.
“I would like to assure you, as I said, there were no military alliances, no nothing, I said, only trade and commerce,” stressed Duterte.
He emphasized that, in the face of maritime disputes, the Philippines will “insist on a resolution that is peaceful, that is in accordance with the rule of law, with the international law, with the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).”
Japan has long supported the Philippines’ case against China over the West Philippine Sea dispute. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands ruled last July that China’s expansive claim in the disputed sea has no legal basis, Japan called the ruling “final and legally binding.”
Abe himself has sought to pressure Beijing by calling on it to respect and comply with the ruling.
But China continues to reject the decision, calling it nothing more than “waste paper.”
Japan and China are locked in their own dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) in the East China Sea.
In Duterte’s state visit to China which preceded his Japan trip, he and President Xi Jinping did not arrive at any agreement on the controversial ruling. However, they both agreed to pursue bilateral negotiations on the maritime dispute.
Duterte had said Japan may be part of the discussions if China agrees to multilateral talks.
After their bilateral meeting, Duterte thanked Japan for all the help it has given to the Philippines, in terms of Official Development Assistance and in beefing up Philippine military assets.
He called Japan the Philippines’ “special friend who is closer than a brother.” – Rappler.com