MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said the Philippines has committed not to make any provocative statements against China ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the two countries’ dispute over the South China Sea.
“That will only serve to heighten the tension, and the important thing for us first is to wait for that decision,” Yasay said in a press briefing on Friday.
Yasay said the Philippines made this commitment during the courtesy call of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Thursday. Yasay was present in the meeting.
“I am happy to announce that the Chinese ambassador had made that commitment that certainly they will not do or take any action that will undermine our friendship and undermine the interests of the Philippines as regards the disputed area. That, in sum, was what was discussed,” Yasay said.
The new secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also reiterated that Manila will study first the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration before deciding on what to do next.
“What the President conveyed to the ambassador officially was that when we receive the decision of the arbitral tribunal, we will look at it, study it before we make any definitive statement or see what particular course of action we will take. But in the meantime, we cannot speculate on what we will do because it will all be dependent upon the decision of the arbitral tribunal,” he said.
Yasay further described Zhao’s courtesy call on Duterte as “simply formal felicitations conveying the head of state of China to the President on an official basis,” adding that they also discussed the strengthening of ties between Manila and Beijing.
China has refused to participate in the case and vowed to ignore the ruling of the arbitration court.