China ambassador said Duterte visit not about South China Sea
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said next week’s visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte “is not about the South China Sea.”
“It is about our friendship and cooperation,” said Zhao in a press conference Friday afternoon broadcast over ABS-CBN News Channel
The Philippines won a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea based on the latter’s nine-dash line is without basis. China has refused to recognize the ruling. It has continued to stop Philippine fishermen from plying their trade at the Scarborough Shoal.
“South China Sea is there. We do have differences but letting the differences hurt our overall bilateral relations… is not well felt and it is stupid. I think it is the common responsibility of both China and the Philippines to address this South China Sea issue in a way to develop our bilateral relationship,” said Zhao.
“Your president’s state visit is really a happy thing. We have nothing to fear and the visit is going to focus on friendship and cooperation. All good things,” said Zhao.
The trip will be the first for a Philippine president in five years after President Benigno Aquino III went to China in 2011, one year before Chinese veseels entered the mouth of fishing area in Scarborough Shoal, Zambales province.
Zhao said China will continue to help the Philippines cope with the illegal drugs problem. He said there is “another private donation to build 130,000 square metere rehab center” but location still being determined.
In a press briefing in Malacanang, Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose said Duterte will visit Beijing on October 18 to 21.
"The bilateral relations between the Philippine and China are very expansive. So we expect that all areas of interest will be (discussed)...expected to be discussed including the South China Sea," he said when asked if the President would take up the South China Sea issue during his trip.
But Jose could not say if Duterte would be the one to initiate the discussion on the issue.
"I don’t know how things will emerge. Well, I would imagine this will be taken up during the meeting of the President with President Xi Jinping," he said.
In his earlier pronouncements, Duterte said any discussion with China regarding the South China Sea would be within the four corners of the PCA's award.
During the trip to Beijing, Duterte and Xi are expected to issue a joint statement and witness the signing of a number of memoranda of understanding and agreement between the two countries after their bilateral meeting, Jose said.
In a text message to the Daily Manila Shimbun, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said
possible memoranda to be signed are enhancing trade and investment cooperation, concentration on small and medium enterprises development, a support fund for economic and trade activities.
Duterte will meet separately with National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Duterte, who declared war against illegal drugs, might also visit some law enforcement and drug rehabilitation centers, Jose said.
He is expected to meet with the Filipino community and Chinese businessmen in China.
Before flying to Beijing, Duterte will go on a state visit to Brunei Darussalam from October 16 to 18. Celerina Monte/DMS