Philippines’ Duterte says South China Sea arbitration case to take ‘back seat’

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) shakes hands with Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (R), as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at airport in Beijing, China, October 18, 2016. CNS Photo via REUTERS

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) shakes hands with Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (R), as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at airport in Beijing, China, October 18, 2016. CNS Photo via REUTERS

The South China Sea arbitration case will “take the back seat” during talks with China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday in Beijing, adding that he would wait for the Chinese to bring up the dispute rather than doing so himself.

Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday with at least 200 top business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance, amid deteriorating ties with longtime ally the United States.

The effort to engage China, months after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled over South China Sea disputes in favor of the Philippines, marks a reversal in Philippine foreign policy since Duterte took office on June 30.

China refused to participate in the arbitration case or recognize its findings.

Speaking to reporters at his hotel, Duterte described the judgment as a “piece of paper”.

“It would not be in keeping with courtesy and goodwill if I am the one to open it,” he said. “And you will say, will it take a back seat? Of course, it has to take the back seat.”

China has welcomed the shift in tone that has added to strains between the Philippines and the United States, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing.

Duterte said on Sunday he would raise the arbitral ruling, and vowed not to deviate from the tribunal’s award.

Speaking in Beijing, Duterte said he did not want to make any “hard impositions” on the South China Sea, and would wait for Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise the subject.

“I have to be courteous and I have to wait for your president to mention it in passing for me to respond,” he said.

“It is in the broader outline of talks that we have agreed. But as a matter of courtesy, and the oriental way, we will always wait because I am a visitor. I cannot destroy the goodwill just by blurting out something.”


In a series of conflicting statements, Duterte has insulted U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. ambassador in Manila for questioning his war on drugs, which has led to the deaths of 2,300 people. He told Obama to “go to hell” and alluded to severing U.S. ties.

Speaking earlier, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said territorial disputes between China and the Philippines may take a lifetime to resolve, but should not prevent warming ties.

On Wednesday, Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters in Beijing that Bank of China had agreed to provide a $3 billion credit facility for infrastructure investments in the Philippines.

Their remarks came as Philippine police used teargas to disperse about 1,000 anti-American protesters outside the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Yasay reiterated that the thaw with China was “not going to erode our close ties with the rest of our allies and traditional partners”.

“As we renew our ties with this great nation, it does not mean that we are weakening ties with the rest of the members of the international community. This is at the core of the independent foreign policy that our president has moved and put forward,” he said.

After weeks of anti-American rhetoric, Duterte said the Philippines would maintain its existing defense treaties and its military alliances.

China has expressed support for Duterte’s drug war, even as it has sparked concerns in Western capitals about extrajudicial killings.

Philippine police made 29 arrests at the rally outside the U.S. embassy, where protesters were calling for the removal of American troops in the southern island of Mindanao.

(Additional reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mike Collett-White)

Source: Reuters “Philippines’ Duterte says South China Sea arbitration case to take ‘back seat’”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


14 Comments on “Philippines’ Duterte says South China Sea arbitration case to take ‘back seat’”

  1. johnleecan says:

    Duterte is an unpredictable person that has made him predictable.

    Philippine officials are now using terms China is using. Do they now realized the Chinese dragon is friendly and goes to help other people without taking advantage of them? Unlike the American fire breathing dragon that goes around conquering and bringing despair, death and destruction to other nations in the disguise of freedom and democracy.


  2. Steve says:

    The sticky point for China is No other than Scarborough Shoal, an important triangular security link with the Paracels and Spratly islands for maritime control of the SCS including an ADIZ.

    Should the new PH President, had being a pro Aquino, the development of the shoal by China would have started by end 2016, irrespective of the US red line because the location is a strategic gateway to the Pacific ocean. What’s the point of developing the other islands and omitting the Scarborough Shoal. It would have weakened or handicapped the other islands, should the US/PH alliance developed the Shoal into a military baseline and block off the gateway into the Pacific ocean.

    For the sake of good neighbourliness, China should allow Filipino fishermen to fish alongside Chinese fishermen under a memorandum of understanding or a treaty of partnership. Huangyan Island is a fantastic bartering chip for China should circumstances change, but I believe that China will also, develop the island for tourism, maritime research, coastguard and military occupation as a necessity.

    All other problems are much easier to solve. China can easily provide soft loans, infrastructure developments, military assets/hardware transactions, exploration/exploitation of SCS, investments, education, transportation, but the Huangyan Island or Scarborough shoal is the main sticky point. Maybe President Duterte proposes barter exchanges like, China build extensive railways, transportations, hospitals, etc for the exchange of Huangyan island (still allowing Filipino fishermen to fish) and declaring China’s sovereignty of the island.

    If, Duterte is somehow impeached, China should provide him and family a Chinese Citizenship and return to his ancestral land. China should be careful Not to make President Duterte and his Filipinos look Cheap.


    • Jane says:

      The Chinese emperors allowed both Chinese and Filipino fishermen to fish in the South China Sea. If the Philippines are willing to drop past conflicts, then they should be allowed back.

      It would also be a wise strategic move. The nations of Southeast Asia will see that they will prosper with China, but stagnate with the United States. That is much more valuable than a few fish.


      • Anonymous says:

        True – to a traditional fisherman, his first home first love is the Sea and catch fish.

        For China , first and foremost is to reclaim the Scarborough Shoal. Without it, China would have lost the centre of gravity to control the SCS. US nuclear submarines will easily play hide n seek. The depths of the SCS are perfect hiding places for Nsubs to launch missiles into the Motherland. Don’t think China will Barter an exchange because in times of confrontation, the Huangyan, Spratlys and Paracel Islands will form a configuration for an ADIZ to control the SCS.


  3. Simon says:

    Its a U turn from Duterte who said he will raise the illegal PCA ruling last sunday but now letting China call the shot. It is also a defeat for the bias BBC’s Celia Hatton who only days ago say Duterte hold the upper hand and will use the PCA ruling to force the Chinese to make concession because the Chinese is desperate to cosy up to Philpines to counter America.


  4. Fre Okin says:

    Duterte show exactly how US differ from Eastern culture. Eastern culture is respectful, not arrogant in your face and the guest must not drive the agenda. The guest must not lead as US is in a habit of doing, especially in the host’s home turf.

    Sometimes the less said the better. China will then be more inclined to accommodate Philippines sensitivities. In a situation like this, what is left unsaid is more important than clarity.

    By ignoring the Scarborough Shoal issue and PCA verdict, China and Philippines can focus on trade and friendship. Both sides know what the other side want. Philippines to quietly reduce US presence, China to quietly allow Filippinos to fish in Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan island. It will be a win win situation for both and Duterte grandfather, a Chinese will be really proud of him as a person who understand how Eastern culture operate.


    • chankaiyee2 says:

      Westerners are also polite. Only the US is arrogant.


      • Fre Okin says:

        Specifically the arrogance are the political people in Washington DC who still dream of dictating China’s behavior. The ordinary Americans are among the finest people I know.


      • Simon says:

        When you have a country of 300 million and the best two candidates running for president they can find are Hilary and Trump. A country deserves a government it get!


    • Steve says:

      Nicely written, but Chinese Culture is a better definition than just Eastern Culture. President Duterte is pivoting towards the success of China’s Chinese Culture in Economic prowess, Education, Science & Technology, Military and Infrastructure Development. His grandfather is Chinese, therefore an adoptee of Chinese culture.

      Clearly, Filipino culture is either Adaptive Vs Adoptive or a combination of both adapted and being adopted over 495 years of colonisation by the Spanish, Portuguese, Americans, Eastern, Western and influences of Chinese Culture. Among All the foreign cultures, the Chinese are the most influential and successful. With 2.5 million Chinese, 7 of the top ten tycoons are Chinese.

      It’s fair to say that the Chinese has Adapted successfully in the Philippines, whilst many has adopted the Chinese culture and other cultural influences of Eastern and Western through multicultural integration. Duterte is highly influenced by his Chinese grandfather and a supporter of Socialism. He even has the right to call himself a Chinese.


    • Simon says:

      There are other areas that are more impoartnt to Duterte than Scarborough Shoal such as foghting crimes and insurgent, neither have recieved support from America. China should not concede anything regarding its territories in SCS, any move to allow Fillipino fihsermen to fish without formal recognition by them as Chinese soveriegn territory is cenceding to the illegal PCA underming China’s wider claim to the sea. Phillipines should be gratefully benifit by China supporting Duterte policy on crimes, lifting tourism and importing its mangoes again so no need to sacrifice territorial rights to please a once rogue neighbour who after all was the one who intigated the problems to begin with.