(From AFP)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered China conciliatory talks on a long-awaited international tribunal ruling over Beijing’s maritime claims, a week before the verdict.

Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte, who was sworn into office last week, said he was optimistic that the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague would rule in favour of the Philippines.

“If it’s favourable to us, let’s talk,” Duterte said in a speech before the Philippine Air Force at the former US military base of Clark, about an hour’s drive from the capital Manila.

An international tribunal will rule on July 12 in a case the Philippines brought challenging China’s claims to most of the strategically vital South China Sea. China’s claims extend even close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

China has said it would reject the ruling and refused to recognise the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s jurisdiction over the issue.

Special envoy to handle sea dispute

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said a special envoy might be appointed for back-channel talks with China following the decision of a United Nations (UN) tribunal on the South China Sea dispute, The Philippine Star reports.

Perfecto Yasay

“Yes, there is a need for a special envoy to probably help us, assist us, maybe in reaching out on a back-channel basis in trying to resolve these disputes,” Yasay said in an interview with ANC’s Top Story on Monday.

In 2012, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV initiated back-channel talks with China. President Rodrigo Duterte said that the talks resulted in the Philippines losing control over Scarborough Shoal.

The back-channel talks, authorized by President Benigno Aquino III, was meant to defuse tension because of a standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships near the shoal, which is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fishers and which Manila claims as part of the West Philippine Sea.

Yasay stressed that the government should study the implications of the arbitral ruling first before making any statement or taking immediate action.

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