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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wanted a "conversation" with China on the South China Sea in a bid to work out a "win-win relationship" with the country, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Friday.|
"Basically he's being friendly toward China. I think it's an indication on how he wants to handle the relationship, not to be adversarial but to really work out a relationship that will be win-win for both," Abella said in an interview with the television ANC.
"I think the point of the president is ... we are not in a position to engage military operations and stuff like that. So, it really makes common sense," he said.
A few hours after taking office as the country's 16th president Thursday, Duterte told a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace not to "flaunt" a possibly favorable ruling in a case filed by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
The tribunal has said that it would be handing down the ruling on July 12.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday that the tribunal, "established on the basis of illegal conduct and claims of the Philippines," has no jurisdiction over the case and the relevant subject matter, and should not have heard the case or render any award.
Duterte brought up the issue during the televised meeting.
While the decision on the arbitration case might be favorable to the Philippines, "it would also put the country in an awkward position especially with China (in terms of relations)," Duterte said.
"God knows I really do not want to declare any fighting with anybody. And if we can have peace by just talking, I would be very happy," he added.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay also informed Duterte during the meeting that he was "averse" to issuing a "strong" statement in case of a favorable ruling, rejecting suggestions by foreign representatives.