China rejects PH arbitral victory on South China Sea anew

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — China still refused to acknowledge the Philippines' arbitral win on the South China Sea dispute after President Rodrigo Duterte raised the 2016 ruling during a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing Thursday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador "Sal" Panelo said Duterte was "steadfast in raising" the country's legal victory with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Duterte also asserted "that the arbitral award is final, binding and not subject to appeal," according to Panelo.

However, the spokesman said, the Chinese leader "reiterated his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling as well as not budging from its position."

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 sided with the Philippines and rejected Beijing’s sweeping claims over virtually the entire South China Sea.

This was the first time Duterte invoked the arbitral victory.

READ: What you need to know about the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling

In an interview with CNN Philippines Friday, Panelo said Duterte and Xi agreed not to allow the two countries' different positions on the issue to "be a reason for them not to talk and continue with the dialogue to peacefully resolve the conflict."

"They agreed that the basis of their friendship should not be based on that alone, that it should be anchored on the hundred century-long friendship, that it should be based on the benefits that the people of the two countries will get out of their cooperation," he said.

"In other words, they (Duterte and Xi) agreed to disagree," he added.

In a media briefing, Panelo said China’s rejection came as no surprise to Duterte.

“He is not surprised because precisely that has been the position of them (China) even two, three weeks before. The spokesman has said that, the ambassador to the Philippines has said that,” he said.

Panelo added the Chinese president was not offended by Duterte’s move to raise the ruling and that the discussion on the issue was not long.

Xi might have dismissed the historic ruling, but the Chinese leader agreed on the the need for a code of conduct in the disputed area in the last three years of Duterte's presidency, Panelo said.

"With the Philippines as the designated country coordinator of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, the Filipino head of state articulated his firm belief that the Code of Conduct would contribute in the resolution of numerous conflicts in the disputed areas of the South China Sea," he said.

Panelo said both leaders "agreed to work together, on the basis of mutual trust and good faith, to manage the South China Sea issue, and to continue to dialogue peacefully in resolving the conflict."

On the two countries' possible joint oil and gas exploration, Xi "said that the steering committee created for that purpose should prepare a substantive program on the matter," according to the spokesman.

RELATED: Carpio: PH signed terms of reference on joint oil and gas exploration deal with China

Duterte previously welcomed a 60-40 deal on oil and gas development with China, in favor of the Philippines.

During their bilateral meeting, Duterte also raised the issue on the Recto Bank incident, with the President expressing "appreciation of China’s readiness to provide compensation to our fishermen who almost lost their lives," Panelo added.

"As regards the Recto Bank incident, PRRD took note of the fact that the China side has recognised and confirmed the responsibility of the Chinese fishing crew," he said.

Duterte said the bilateral meeting "went very well," Panelo added.

The President is currently in China for his fifth visit to the Asian giant. He is expected to go home September 2.