As expected, President Duterte’s bid to assert the Philippines’ arbitral victory in the sea dispute was met with a stern response from Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing will not recognize the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
Duterte, according to his spokesman Salvador Panelo, told Xi that “the arbitral award is final, binding and not subject to appeal.”
“In response, President Xi reiterated his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling as well as not budging from its position,” Panelo said.
But while the two countries’ claims over parts of the South China that Manila calls as the West Philippine Sea remained at square one, the eighth meeting between Duterte and Xi on Thursday (August 29) in Beijing did yield solid commitments that they will work together to finally implement joint undertakings that will yield mutual benefits over the long term.
A report of state-owned CCTV quoted Xi as telling Duterte: “I am willing to work with you to continue leading the development of the China-Philippines relationship with a strategic and long-term perspective.”
Xi vowed to work for the conclusion of the negotiations for the Code of Conduct among claimants in the South China Sea by 2021 at the latest.
China’s news agency Xinhua also reported that the two countries have achieved progress in their planned joint explorations in the West Philippine Sea, with Duterte and Xi approving the creation a “joint steering committee” to be spearheaded by diplomats and energy officials, as well as “joint entrepreneurial working committees” composed of firms that will participate in the projects.
Agreements signed and exchanged include a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on higher-education cooperation between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Ministry of Education of China, MOU on science and technology cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and cooperative arrangement between the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and China’s General Administration of Customs regarding the implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters.
Other agreements include the implementation contract on China-Aid container inspection equipment between the BoC and China’s Ministry of Commerce, exchange of notes on cooperation procedure for concessional loan under a Renminbi-denominated loan facility between the DOF and China International Development Cooperation Agency, and preferential buyer’s credit loan agreement for the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) South Long Haul Project between the DOF and the Export-Import Bank of China.
Panelo said the meeting between the two leaders “went very well”.
“The President’s activities on the second day of his official visit here in China are a reflection of continued good faith and warm friendship between the two presidents, and undoubtedly, a testament to the enhanced and enduring bond between the Philippines and China,” Panelo said.
Duterte’s fifth state visit to China will also see the Philippine leader meeting with Premier Li Keqiang today (August 30) and Vice President Wang Qishan on Saturday. He will then cheer for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 FIBA World Cup game between the Philippines and Italy.