Metro Manila — After an international tribunal's landmark decision favoring Manila's claims against Beijing's in connection with disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea, the Duterte administration's next tack will be to sit down with the Asian superpower.
Budget Secretary Ben Diokno told reporters on Thursday that holding talks with China was what President Rodrigo Duterte told his Cabinet last Tuesday, right after The Hague court's ruling came out.
But now, Diokno said quoting the President, the Philippines would be in a better position when it talks with China on the heels of the PCA's ruling — which some had described as "a clean sweep" for the Filipinos.
President Duterte, however, gave a reminder that the Philippines should be magnanimous in its victory, Diokno said.
Diokno also noted that the problem with the arbitration court's decision was about enforceability — as the PCA had no implementing arm.
Will FVR accept?
Later in the day, President Duterte himself revealed his next move: to ask for the help of no less than a former Philippine President to further the country's cause at sea.
Duterte attended a dinner event in Greenhills, San Juan City together with his fellow lawyers from San Beda College when he said he had respectfully asked former President Fidel V. Ramos or FVR to go to Beijing for the talks.
This was the first time Duterte made a statement about the arbitral ruling after it came out two days ago. Initially, reports said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) would be the sole speaker on the matter.
Duterte underscored the importance of such talks considering that at stake would be not only the Philippines' interests but its allies' as well.
But Ramos, who also graced the event, had yet to accept the offer. The former President cited his "increasing age" and other commitments as considerations before taking on the task.
Duterte also reacted to a statement made by China after the court ruling that it had the right to set up an air defense zone in the disputed waters.
The President said that if China would do this, it would have tremendous effect on the economy, including a possible spike in ship insurance cost.
"So (we have to be) careful. We have to navigate with courtesy," Duterte said.