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China to avoid 'divisive' sea ruling during Duterte trip

 

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on Friday October 14, said China will avoid discussing the historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits Beijing.

"You know our position on the arbitration and the award, so I don't expect, and I don't hope, that issues that can be divisive will be picked up," Zhao said in a forum.

The Philippines on July 12 won a historic arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea, but Zhao said both parties prefer to focus on boosting trade, among other things.

"The visit is about friendship and cooperation. It will be focusing on the things that unite us and the things where both sides can benefit," he explained.

This comes as Duterte is set to make a state visit to China from October 18 to 21.

Earlier on Friday, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said Duterte will focus on trade and investments during his trip to China. 

Business leaders told Rappler that around 400 businessmen will join this trip.

"There will be a lot, and I mean a lot, of business contracts that will be signed," Jose said.

Jose, however, said he was unsure if Duterte will bring up the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China. 

In any case, the DFA spokesman said the plight of Filipino fishermen remains a "top priority" for Duterte. He added that the West Philippine Sea dispute "is not the sum total" of the Philippines’ ties with China.

Duterte earlier said he is unlikely to dwell on the dispute over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea during his trip to Beijing. 

"Magalit man tayo, hangin lang. 'Di natin kaya," Duterte said. (Even if we express anger, it will just amount to nothing. We can’t back it up.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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