President Duterte has reportedly decided to cut short his trip to China next week to only four days from the original plan of eight days.
The President will leave on Aug. 28 for Beijing where he will hold separate meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Le Keqiang. His China visit ends on Aug. 31. It was not clear what prompted the President’s decision.
He vowed to bring up the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China with Xi, saying he’d rather cancel the talks than be prevented from raising the issue before his Chinese host.
“If I’m not allowed as a president of a sovereign nation to talk whatever I want to talk about then let us not rather talk altogether. Do not control my mouth because that is a gift from God,” Duterte said in remarks at the inauguration of a solar power project on Wednesday in Romblon.
Duterte said any exploration of resources in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone would have a “direct bearing” on the 2016 arbitral ruling, which voided China’s expansive maritime claim and upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile EEZ.
“As what you said, and what we agreed upon, we talk to resolve this problem peacefully. Now tell me, how do we start to resolve the problem peacefully? There has got to be something. You cannot just talk air – they said we should not talk about it. I said, no,” Duterte said in Romblon.
Duterte did not say who was trying to prevent him from raising the arbitral ruling.
“So whether you like it or not, it will make you happy or not, angry or otherwise, I’m sorry. But we have to talk about the arbitral ruling. Then what we get, if there is a start in the exploration and extraction of whatever were there is in the bowels of the earth, the proposal of 60-40 in our favor, would be a good start,” Duterte said.
“I hope that it would graduate into something like towards how do we solve the arbitral ruling peacefully,” he added.
Critics and political foes are accusing Duterte of being too soft on China despite the latter’s brazen acts of provocation in the West Philippine Sea.
In his China visit, the President will also attend the grand opening of FIBA World Cup 2019 and watch the first game of the Gilas Pilipinas team against Italy in Fonshan City.
And while in Beijing, the President will also meet with over 300 Chinese leaders in one venue.
The President will no longer attend the inauguration of a school building named after his late mother Soledad in Fujian University in Fujian City on Sept. 2.