Presidents Duterte, Xi agree to talk sea dispute at ‘right time’

DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping have agreed to hold talks on the ruling of the international Arbitral Tribunal on the West Philippine Sea “at the right time.”

Duterte emphasized this at a press conference upon his arrival from official visits to Cambodia, Hongkong and Beijing, China before dawn Tuesday at the Davao International Airport.

Duterte said he and Xi had the chance to talk about the matter shortly before he boarded the plane for the flight back to Davao.

”We decided that there’s a time to raise (the arbitral ruling). There is a time for me to ask about the arbitral ruling but it is not now,” Duterte told reporters.

The President said there is a need to set the agenda first before they could discuss the matter.

”We agreed to talk, to have a dialogue,” said Duterte, without elaborating.

The President has been adamant in raising with China the issue on the West Philippine Sea, especially now that the Philippines and China have stronger relations and cooperation. His position, he earlier said, “does not indicate fear of China but keeping peace in the disputed area, which could be a potential flashpoint.”

“There will be a time that we have to talk about its implementation. You cannot avoid it. But it is not now. It is not the right time to do it,” Duterte said.

”We avoid violence and we avoid war because frankly, we cannot afford it and China cannot afford it also at this time. Masisira tayong dalawa (Both of us will lose),” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Duterte was looking forward to the inaugural meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea later this month.

”This is one step forward in peacefully managing the dispute,” the President said. LCM/