Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc that Manila is not abandoning an arbitration victory that rejected China’s expansive territorial claim in the South China Sea.
Duterte told Phuc that “we are not ignoring, we are not setting aside the tribunal victory which is in our favor,” according to Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesperson.
The two leaders met Friday on the sidelines of the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore, this year’s rotating chair.
A case filed by the Philippines in 2013 at a United Nations arbitration court in The Hague was decided in its favor on July 12, 2016, two weeks after Duterte took power. The court ruled that China’s “nine-dash” line claim in the South China Sea had no legal basis.
Southeast Asian countries Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also have claims in the area claimed by China. Duterte, however, opted to improve ties with China, which has promised to help build Philippine infrastructure.
More recently, his administration has sought to pursue joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea with Beijing.
Earlier this month on a visit to China in which the two countries discussed joint oil and gas exploration, Duterte secured 3.8 billion pesos ($73 million) in aid from Beijing and $9 billion investment commitments from Chinese companies.
During his first visit to China in 2016, Duterte bagged $24 billion worth of credit and investment pledges.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told foreign correspondents in Manila last week that claimants in ASEAN had voiced “concerns” and “issues” over the joint exploration, although they respected the Philippines’ prerogative.
Duterte’s remarks to Phuc appear to be intended to mollify those concerns. Facing a common security concern in the South China Sea, where China has carried out massive reclamation, the Philippines and Vietnam signed a strategic partnership in late 2015.
But the bilateral cooperation has centered on agriculture and trade as the Philippines avoided to infuriate China. At the bilateral meeting, Phuc told Duterte that Vietnam would supply rice to the Philippines whenever it needs, Roque said.