Philippines says omission of arbitration ruling in ASEAN statement not victory for China

By Reuters   July 26, 2016 | 07:51 pm PT
Philippines says omission of arbitration ruling in ASEAN statement not victory for China
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to media at the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Vientiane, Laos July 26, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Jorge Silva
'The Arbitral award is a matter between China and the Philippines.' 

The Philippines "vigorously pushed" for the inclusion of a arbitration ruling in an ASEAN statement but the grouping's decision not to mention it was not a victory for China, Manila's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The issuance of a joint communique by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, however, was a victory for the grouping, which the Philippines had never asked for support on its arbitration case, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said.

"I am just saying this to dispel the reports that have been said that China came out victorious in the ASEAN meeting because we precisely agreed to not mentioning the arbitral award," Yasay told a news conference.

"The Arbitral award is a matter between China and the Philippines."


Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay leaves a meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Vientiane, Laos July 26, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Jorge Silva

Kerry to meet Philippines' Duterte on cooperation, China talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Philippine's President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on Wednesday to discuss his new government's priorities as well as possible dialogue with China on resolving tensions over the South China Sea.

Kerry is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Philippines since Duterte's election victory in May and follows a meeting of foreign ministers from Southeast Asian nations in Laos this week.

"We are going to hear about (Duterte's) priorities, we're going to get to know him," a U.S. official said ahead of the meeting. "We're going to discuss how we can work together and where we want to focus."

Duterte will host Kerry at the presidential palace for a working lunch, a gesture the U.S. official called "unprecedented and a signal of the importance the new president places on the relationship and the alliance" with the United States.

Kerry said on Tuesday he supported the resumption of talks between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea following an international court ruling against Beijing over the dispute earlier this month.

China has refused to accept the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, in which Manila won an emphatic legal victory.

During the meeting in Vientiane, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked Kerry to lend his support for bilateral talks to restart between Manila and Beijing.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Yuri Gripas/File Photo 

"I expect the conversation to include more exploration on the question of what a constructive, positive and peaceful and lawful path forward looks like," the U.S. official said, adding that the Philippines had behaved with restraint since the court ruling.

The official said Kerry would also raise U.S. concerns over "an unhappy history" in the Philippines of extra-judicial killings and violence against journalists.

"We hope to learn more from President Duterte about his thinking in connection with protecting human rights, civil rights, and maintaining the rule of law in law enforcement," the official added.

Duterte's incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of extrajudicial killings to stamp out crime has prompted alarm among the international community, including in the United States.

Increased military cooperation between the two countries could also come up during the meeting, the official said.

The Philippines is one of the oldest U.S. allies in Asia, and hosted permanent U.S. military bases until 1992. That deal ended after Philippine lawmakers voted to evict U.S. troops in 1991.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced that U.S. troops and military equipment would be sent on regular rotations in the Philippines and that the two countries had started joint patrols in the South China Sea. 

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