Several foreign dignitaries from countries that are party to the ongoing territorial dispute in South China Sea have held closed-door meeting with the incoming president of the Philippines, before it even officially assume the post on June 30.
Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has held a closed-door meeting with ambassadors from China, Russia, Japan earlier this week. Duterte secured the presidency in a landslide victory with nearly 16 million votes. On Monday, Duterte held temporary office in a hotel in Davao City, southern part of the Philippines, where he also served as mayor for the past 22 years.
Earlier reports have it that Duterte had been keen on holding bilateral talks with China just so to stress the country’s sovereignty in the highly contested South China Sea. Although Duterte has vowed the United States President Barrack Obama that the Philippines would remain a strategic ally of the U.S under his reign, the Philippines, this time, is seriously considering a bilateral talks with China, the Straight Times reported.
On Monday, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has paid a courtesy call to the incoming president to which, Duterte offers hand of friendship, the South China Morning Post reported.
During the same day, Japanese ambassador to the Philippine also met with Duterte and on Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador had the same closed-door meeting with Duterte. The two ambassadors refused to give details of their conversation with the Philippine president-elect.
“We had a very good conversation. The Chinese side is looking forward [to working with] him and his team to further enhance our bilateral relationship,” Zhao told reporters as quoted by the South China Morning Post. When pressed whether the issue on territorial dispute has been opened during the meeting, Zhao responded with a smile.
In the height of this territorial dispute, China boldly emphasized that it has no plans to participate in the case filed by the Philippines. Instead, China insisted on a bilateral talks with the Philippines, that is, without involving the United States.
The U.S has been adamant in China’s compromise, saying it’s claim in the region is inconsistent with international treaties, particularly the UNCLOS to which, China is one of the signatory countries.
In 2013, under the reign of the outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines has filed a territorial dispute before the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The same court is expected to hand down the much anticipated decision within the next few weeks.