The Philippines will not back down from its claim in the South China Sea, but is open to negotiations with China, the country’s incoming president said yesterday.
“They are there illegally, whether they want to believe it or not,” Rodrigo Duterte told reporters before meeting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.
The conflict centres on the Spratly Islands, a far-flung set of islands 100-300 kilometres off the Philippine coast, which Beijing also claims along with most of the South China Sea.
Duterte, who said during his campaign the Philippines could afford to be softer on China, said this did not mean he would drop the claims in exchange for economic and trade concessions from Beijing.
“I said soft in the sense that I do not want to go to war,” he said. “But if you mean soft to renege or to relent, that is impossible, very impossible.”
The Chinese ambassador said he had “a very good conversation.”
“The Chinese side is looking forward to working with him and his team,” Zhao told reporters after the meeting.
Zhao was the second ambassador to pay a courtesy call on the 71-year-old mayor of the southern town of Davao after his victory in the May 9 presidential elections.
Duterte yesterday first received the ambassador of Japan, and later the Israeli envoy, as well as local and national politicians, businessmen and former military and police officials.
They were received in an unfinished condominium complex in Davao City, near the mayor’s house, which Duterte has turned into a temporary office while waiting for his official proclamation.
When asked when he would meet with US ambassador Philip Goldberg, Duterte said no schedule has been made.
The mayor, who has not hidden his wariness of the Philippines’ long-standing relationship with the US, said he would honour the defence alliance with Washington.
Read more: http://www.gulf-times.com/story/493698/Duterte-stands-firm-on-South-China-Sea-claims