Duterte wants to set aside arbitral ruling — for now

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed his willingness to temporarily set aside the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in settling the country's dispute with China.

During his speech at the National Heroes Day rites at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Duterte told Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua that he does not want to go to war with China.

The president said that he will stay silent on the matter of the South China Sea dispute as it might lead to the suspension of talks with China.

"I will not use the judgment (of the) arbitral (tribunal) now but I would one day sit in front of your representative or you and then I will lay bare my position  and I would say that this paper, I cannot get out of the four corners of this law and that is the arbitral judgment," Duterte told the Chinese envoy.

Duterte proposed that both the Philippines and China should just have a "soft landing everywhere."

The president, however, joked that he wants more time for the Philippines to build its forces against China.

"But for now Mr. Ambassador, I want to just talk to you in the moment, maybe give us time to build our forces also. You have so much superiority," Duterte said.

Duterte asked the Chinese diplomat, who was sitting in the audience, to consider the plight of Filipino fishermen who fish around the disputed seas.

The president appealed to the Chinese to treat Filipinos as brothers as he has Chinese blood in him.

"I know the dynamics inside China. It has been explained to me very well but the Chinese people this time might find a place in their hearts for Filipinos. After all... there's a Chinese blood in me so I hope that you treat us as brothers, not your enemies and take note of the plight of our citizens," Duterte said.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration earlier concluded that China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea does not have legal basis. The arbitral tribunal also ruled that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when it constructed artificial islands inside the Philippines' exclusive economic one.

China has repeatedly stated that it will not respect the decision of the arbitral tribunal and insisted that they have indisputable sovereignty over the disputed waters.

Duterte has sent former President Fidel Ramos as a special envoy to China to hold formal discussions to resolve the dispute between the two countries.

RELATED: Fidel Ramos takes first steps to build trust with China | Duterte ready to face China on territorial issue

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