By Argyll Geducos
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping can still discuss issues other than the disputed waters when they meet in Beijing this week.
DFA Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre made the statement days before President Duterte’s scheduled five-day work visit to China this week.
In an interview, Montealegre said that the two countries continue to enjoy close bilateral ties so the two leaders are going to be free to discuss related issues.
“So there is a close bilateral ties, friendly relations between the two countries. And there are other issues that can be discussed in the economic front and people to people exchanges. It’s not just one particular issue that the two sides can discuss,” he said.
Chief of Presidential Protocol Robert Borje also said that the meeting will also be an opportunity for both Xi and Duterte to discuss other issues of mutual interest.
“It’s also an opportunity for the President to discuss other issues covering the full bilateral relations between the Philippines and China,” he said.
President Duterte earlier announced that he will be flying to Beijing to finally raise the Hague Ruling with Xi.
However, Montealegre said it will be up to the President on how he will bring the issue up.
Last week, Duterte said China cannot stop him from raising the Arbitral Ruling handed down in 2016. Duterte hinted that someone was stopping him from doing so. However, he did not name anyone in particular.
“Sabi nila hindi pag-usapan. Sabi ko (They said we will not talk about it. I said), ‘No,'” he said.
“If I’m not allowed as a president of a sovereign nation to talk whatever I want to talk about, then let us not rather talk altogether.
‘Wag na (Let’s not). Do not control my mouth because that is a gift from God,” he added.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said that Duterte will not change his mind about finally raising the issue on the Hague Ruling with Xi.
“Kung ano yung sinabi ni Presidente yun na yun. Hindi na mababali yun (Whatever the President said, that’s it. That will not change),” he said.
At the start of his term, President Duterte set aside the Arbitral Ruling to build better relations with China. He, however, vowed to raise it before he steps down.