Duterte and US officials discuss West Philippine Sea ruling

Pia Ranada

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Duterte and US officials discuss West Philippine Sea ruling
After the meeting, US Senator Chris Murphy tweets and claims Duterte assured them he has no plans to negotiate with China over the West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The landmark ruling on the West Philippine Sea was a major topic during a meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US officials on Tuesday, July 19.

A US delegation composed of US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and US lawmakers paid Duterte a visit in Malacañang Palace.

The American lawmakers present were Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Brian Schatz, Congressman Ted Deutch, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and Congressman John Garamendi.

The delegation apparently asked Duterte what his administration’s next steps on the West Philippine Sea dispute would be, given the ruling in favor of the Philippines.

Senator Murphy tweeted after the meeting that Duterte gave his assurances that he would not surrender the Philippines’ claim to China, despite the Asian giant’s aggressive rhetoric.

Murphy tweeted, “We were first US elected officials to meet w Duterte. Says he will not trade territorial rights to China. Tribunal decision non-negotiable.” 

The senator most likely meant “maritime rights”, given the dispute being over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

In another tweet, Murphy claimed Duterte said he would not negotiate with China over the West Philippine Sea.

“In Manila – just out of meeting w new Philippines President Duterte. Assured us he has no plans to negotiate w China over islands dispute,” read Murphy’s tweet.

Duterte earlier said he intends to hold bilateral talks with China, even saying he would send former president Fidel V. Ramos as his envoy. (READ: PH-China ruling could help restart talks)

What Duterte may have meant was, he would not negotiate with China unless the Asian giant recognizes the historic ruling of an arbitral tribunal that favors the Philippines. 

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, however told a briefing last week, July 13, “China will not allow any negotiation based on the ruling.” Liu, in effect, said there can be no negotiations with the Philippines unless the Duterte administration junks the ruling in The Hague.

Among others, the tribunal ruled that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the disputed area. It also said that Beijing violated Manila’s sovereign rights in the Philippines’ own Exclusive Economic Zone.

Among the US’ main interests in the dispute is to preserve freedom of navigation in the area.

The meeting between Duterte and the US delegation was also attended by Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.