Duterte says no longer insisted on further response after Xi rejected arbitral ruling again

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he no longer insisted on a further response from Chinese President Xi Jinping after raising the arbitral ruling and getting rejected again.

“I am not satisfied with your answer, but I will not ask for any other answer, I’ll just remain where I am, where I started, considering you are under stress by the incidents dito sa Hong Kong,” Duterte recalled telling Xi during their bilateral meeting in Beijing last week.

Duterte said Xi is “hot headed” over the Hong Kong protests and there could be a “better timing” when to raise the arbitral ruling which favored the Philippines.

Asked by reporters during a media briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday what would be his next step on the West Philippine Sea, Duterte said, “Quo vadis, Philippines.”

“If I go to war, you must all agree to me to go to war because you know it will be the end of our civilization. Then just tell me. If we go to war, we go to war. If we die, we all die,” he said.

No apology?

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. earlier denied claims that Duterte apologized to Xi when he brought up last week the issue of the arbitral ruling that dismissed Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

In a tweet, Locsin said there was also no truth to reports that China rejected the discussion on Manila's maritime claim.

"He did not apologize to China. Quite the contrary; in fact insistently the contrary," Locsin said on Tuesday.

"And the Chinese did not reject him. They said what I said in Bangkok: to each his own: we insist on our claims, including the Arbitral Award China lost. They insist on theirs and we both move on," he added.

The top diplomat also told lawmakers about this during the agency's budget hearing on Wednesday, even saying that Duterte has been persistent about Manila's exclusive economic zone.

"The report that the President was apologetic about the arbitral award, that's a total fabrication and in every aspect, a complete lie," Locsin told the House Committee on Appropriations. "On the contrary, the President has, in my experience, in his visits to China, has always raised the arbitral award."

He was refuting news reports where Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo quoted the President as saying that he asked for "forgiveness" as he raised the arbirtral ruling with Xi, at a time when China contends with pro-democracy protest actions in Hong Kong.

"He wouldn’t say that. I was with Panelo the whole time," Locsin added.

The two officials were with Duterte during the bilateral meeting with Xi last August 29.

On Wednesday, Panelo told CNN Philippines that Duterte was not apologizing for raising the issue: "I never said that... Kumbaga sa diplomacy, courtesy ang tawag doon. Nakikiraan ka, pero sasabihin ko sa 'yo [In diplomatic relations, that's courtesy. You excuse yourself, but you still bring up the issue at hand]."

"Kumbaga sinasabi ni Duterte sa kanya (Xi) na kahit may malaki kang problema, pasensya na pero kailangang i-raise ko ito dahil pinangako ko ito sa aking mga tao eh. Sabi naman ni Xi, okay lang, I don't take offense and you can raise anything," Panelo said. "Magkakaibigan eh, they have mutual respect."

[Translation: Duterte was telling Xi that even if he had a big problem, sorry but I have to raise this because I promised this to the Filipino people. Xi then said that it was okay, he doesn't take offense and Duterte can raise anything.]

As promised three years ago, Duterte raised the arbitral ruling with Xi for the first time during their bilateral meeting in Beijing. According to Malacañang, Duterte asserted that the arbitral award is "final, binding and not subject to appeal."

But as expected, Xi did not budge in his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling, which is premised on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both the Philippines and China have signed the treaty.

Panelo said last week that Duterte and Xi agreed to disagree, saying that their differing positions on the issue should not "be a reason for them not to talk and continue with the dialogue to peacefully resolve the conflict."

Locsin also said that the Philippines and China are now "on the same side" in demanding permission even for innocent passage at sea. This comes after Malacañang announced that all foreign vessels would have to seek clearance before they pass through Philippine waters.

READ: PH now on China's side in seeking revision of UNCLOS – Locsin

Panelo announced in August that all passing ships must notify the Philippine government ahead of time “to avoid misunderstanding in the future." However, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines cannot turn away or outrightly ban foreign ships due to the UNCLOS, which clears foreign ships as long as its passage in a country's territorial waters does not affect the peace, good order or security of that nation.