A Malacañang official said it would be better if President Duterte would push through with his China visit next week so he can meet President Xi Jinping and talk about the South China Sea dispute face to face.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made the statement following the strongly-worded statements released by Malacañang regarding the presence of Chinese vessels circling Philippine-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Nograles, it would be preferable if the two leaders would personally talk about the developments in the disputed waters.

“I think it’s political posturing to push through with the trip para may face to face between our leaders and counterparts,” he said.

“Wala naman tayong tinatago. Wala naman tayo ikinababahala in terms of ano ba yung our relations (We are not hiding anything. We have nothing to worry about in terms of our relations),” he added.

Duterte is set to fly to China on Wednesday for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. It would be his fourth visit to the Asian powerhouse.

Earlier, Malacañang said that it would be up to Duterte or Xi if they would raise the South China Sea issue and if Duterte would assert the 2016 Hague ruling favoring the Philippines in the disputed waters.

Early this week, Duterte said that the Philippines and China should meet halfway in addressing the issue in the West Philippine Sea since insisting on the arbitral ruling now may end up in a bloodbath.

“Gusto nila na I will confront China. ‘Pag ginawa ko ‘yan (They want me to confront China. If I do that), it will be a massacre… They can bomb us to the heavens,” he said Wednesday night.

“But there will be a time, at sabihin ko sa China ngayon (and I will tell China now), that they should also meet halfway,” he added.

Last week, President Duterte told China to lay off Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, saying he will not hesitate to shed blood if the Chinese would harm Filipinos in the Pag-asa Island.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also urged China to respect the 2016 Hague ruling which is anchored on international law accepted by countries across the globe.

“We reiterate our unchanged stance – the arbitral ruling is irreversible, the same being based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law accepted by most, if not by all, nations. It has the stamp of permanence,” he said.

“We urge the Chinese government to respect it, and we hope the mechanism of bilateral negotiations between the countries forge a mutually satisfactory solution to the conflict based on internationally accepted principles of justice and reciprocity, as well as anchored on the dictates of each national security and aspirations of their people,” he added.

Panelo also said that the Hague ruling was not shelved but was just unenforceable.

The article was originally published on news.mb.com on April 20, 2019

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