Duterte, Xi talk about "irritants" in disputed waters, but fails to get assurance of Chinese vessels' pullout near Pag-asa
President Rodrigo Duterte has raised "irritants" in the South China Sea during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, Duterte was not able to get an assurance from Xi that the Chinese ships, with militiamen on board, near Pag-asa Island, a Philippine territory, would be pulled out.
"He (Duterte) did not mention about it. Because what the President raised were the irritants. So it refers to everything there - from the presence of the ships, from the alleged harassment, everything, irritants," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing on Monday when asked if Xi mentioned during his meeting with Duterte that he would order the pullout of Chinese ships near the Scarborough Shoal and Pag-asa Island.
Prior to his trip to China, in one of his speeches, Duterte said China should lay-off Pag-asa, which is part of the Kalayaan Municipality in Palawan province.
The military's Western Command reported to Malacanang that from January to March, over 200 Chinese ships with Chinese militiamen on board were monitored near Pag-asa.
During the bilateral meeting, Xi reportedly told Duterte that China was not recognizing the ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, invalidating China's historic and sovereign claim in almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Beijing did not participate in the arbitral tribunal.
Panelo said Duterte and Xi agreed to address the "irritants" through the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism between the two countries.
However, despite the BCM, which was initiated about two years ago, China has continued with its aggressive activities in the South China Sea, the recent of which was the presence of their ships near Pag-asa.
Panelo said in the next BCM, both sides could discuss the specific irritants.
Asked if the Philippines still trusts China, he said, "As what President Xi and the President of ours agreed, we are allies. Allies strengthen each other. Allies do not destroy each other."
"What is important, the President is very assertive on our principled stand that territory is ours," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS