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Xi,Duterte Fail to Reach Agreement on the Problem of the South China Sea

MANILA – The much-vaunted meeting of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese leader Xi Jinping has resulted in no agreement on the territorial dispute between the two countries over the South China Sea or on an oil and gas exploration project in China, Japan Times reported.
Instead, Xi and Duterte have decided to set up committees to advance discussions on oil exploration, with the aim of lifting a moratorium on contracts in force in the Philippines, said the Manila envoy in Beijing, Chito Sta., Romana said.
“The goal is to deal with the service contracts already awarded by the Philippines and start the process,” said the ambassador, adding that there was “a moderate chance” for a final deal by November.
The outcome of the meeting between Xi and Duterte shows that joint talks on oil exploration are continuing “as slowly as expected,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea University of the Philippines.
“It will only be the beginning of the process,” Batongbacal said. “This does not guarantee that a final agreement will be signed.”
Xi said China and the Philippines should aim to conclude negotiations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea by 2021, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. An article about Weibo, the Chinese social media network of Chinese type Twitter. It was Duterte’s fifth visit to China in three years and his eighth meeting with Xi.
Duterte was “firm” in his country’s land claims and triumph over the arbitration tribunal three years ago, which the Philippine leader described as “final, binding and without appeal,” said his spokesman, Salvador Panelo, in a statement.
Xi maintained China’s position of not recognizing the decision.
“President Duterte and President Xi have agreed that, even if their divergent positions remain unchanged, their differences should not derail or diminish the friendship between the two countries,” said Panelo. They agreed to “manage the problem of the South China Sea and continue to dialogue peacefully to resolve the conflict”.
The Beijing meeting took place in the midst of tensions over China’s growing presence in the South China Sea and Beijing’s crackdown on online casinos worth one billion Philippine pesos, mainly for Chinese nationals.
Xi explained China’s position on online gaming in bilateral talks, Sta. Romana said, while adding that the Philippines would continue to regulate the industry but would not seek “a drastic measure that would have a negative effect on the economy.”
A loan agreement for a railway project on the main island of the Philippines and financial cooperation were among the six signed agreements, as witnessed by Xi and Duterte.
A few weeks before the trip and while the Philippines was protesting the presence of hundreds of Chinese ships in one of the disputed Spratly Islands, Duterte said the time has come to evoke the victory of his country’s international tribunal in 2016 against China. He cancelled the decision to warm ties with Xi and tap Chinese financing.
“President Duterte and President Xi have agreed on the importance of personal restraint and respect for the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea – and overflight over it,” said Panelo.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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