China / Government

China offers Philippines chance to discuss ruling, spokesman says

By Li Xiaokun and Wang Qingyun ( Updated: 2016-07-20 12:49

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Philippine counterpart during the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in Ulaanbaatar that China is willing to talk in an "unofficial engagement", Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed on Tuesday.

"Foreign Minister Wang Yi elaborated on China's principled position on the current situation, saying that China would like to work in unison with the Philippines if the new Philippine government is willing to resume dialogue and consultation, manage disputes and improve bilateral relations together with China," Lu said.

Wang "underscored that it is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people to move China-Philippines relations back to the track of dialogue and consultation," Lu said.

The remarks came after Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Tuesday direct talks with China over maritime disputes were unlikely to start anytime soon due to Beijing's refusal to accept the tribunal ruling on the South China Sea.

"At this point in time, I am not sure whether negotiations can be pursued," Yasay said in an interview with the ABS-CBN network.

Beijing has said it was the first to have discovered, named and exploited the sea and has refused to take part in the tribunal ruling process.

Last week Beijing rejected the ruling on the arbitration case unilaterally brought by the Philippines and said the tribunal ruling cannot be the basis of any discussions.

Yasay said he discussed possibilities of bilateral talks with Wang on the sidelines of last weekend's Asia-Europe meeting in Mongolia but made no progress.

"Let the dust settle some more and let's see how we can open up the road for this kind of negotiation."

Yasay said he was still hopeful both countries could find a way to resolve disputes.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said last week that he would send former president Fidel Ramos to China to start talks on the ruling.

But it remains unknown if Ramos would accept or when, if he did, he would be dispatched.

Xu Liping, a senior research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Manila still needs time to calm nationalist sentiment stirred up by the ruling before starting negotiations on the territorial dispute.

“After the arbitration case, the new Filipino government has to seek balance among the opposition, pressure from the US and Japan and the public view," Xu said.

"Personally, based on Duterte's recent remarks, I'm cautiously confident about the future of bilateral talks," Xu said.

He said the start of talks, regardless of the progress, will send a strong signal of stability to the global community.

Despite the "nationalist sentiments" in the Philippines, as Xu noted, there are also voices in Manila revealing the background behind the ruling.

Francisco Tatad wrote in a column carried by The Manila Times on July 17 that he "doesn't believe the Aquino government (the previous government before Duterte assumed office in June) was candid enough about everything the public needed to know about the arbitration process".

"For one, contrary to what the public has been led to believe, the Permanent Court of Arbitration is not a real court but a mere provider of dispute resolution services to the international community; an intergovernmental organization which began in 1899, but it is not an organ or institution of the United Nations, which was founded only in 1945," he wrote.

He noted "the government also never told the public how much the arbitration would cost Philippine taxpayers".

On lawyer's fees alone, the Philippine government has spent $30 million.

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