Palace still waiting for US stance on sea row

- Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – It’s still wait-and-see for the Duterte administration as far as the US position on the South China Sea issue is concerned, Malacañang said yesterday.

Until it is made into a policy, a pronouncement from the White House – under new President Donald Trump – that it would stop the Chinese from claiming areas in international waters will not merit a reaction from the Duterte administration, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

“It still needs to be policy,” Abella said when asked for comment on a statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer that “we are going to make sure we defend international territories.”

President Duterte voiced the same position on a similar statement about the South China Sea from new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil.

“Mr. Tillerson’s comment was simply an opinion. It is not policy,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry shrugged off Tillerson’s statement as it stressed the importance of greater cooperation with Washington. It said Trump’s post-election call to Chinese President Xi Jinping reflected mutual respect. The State Department on Thursday reported no official complaint from China.

After a falling out with former US president Barack Obama, Duterte announced his separation from the US and his pivot to China.

Obama earned the ire of Duterte when he and his officials expressed concern over reports of rising cases of human rights violations in the conduct of the Philippine leader’s war on drugs.

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