China envoy visits Duterte days before Hague ruling

MANILA, Philippines – Only 5 days before an international court issues its ruling on the Philippines' claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte gets a visit from the Chinese ambassador.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua paid a courtesy call on Duterte Thursday, July 7, in Malacañang Palace. The international tribunal's ruling is set to be released on July 12.

In a video released by state-run Radio TV Malacañang, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay is present during the meeting between the two officials.

According to Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, Zhao made the visit to "convey President Xi Jinping's congratulations on being the 16th president [of the Philippines]."

He declined to give more details about the meeting.

This is Zhao's 3rd visit to Duterte since he won the presidential elections. In the first visit in May, he had delivered to Duterte a letter from Xi Jinping. Less than a month after, Zhao visited him again.

The Chinese diplomat's most recent visit comes only 5 days before an international court in the Hague, Netherlands issues its ruling over a historic case filed by the Philippines against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea.

While waiting for this ruling, China has exercised de facto control over parts of the West Philippine Sea, preventing Filipinos from fishing in the disputed waters. China has said it will never accept or recognize whatever decision is produced by the international court.

Recently, the Chinese president declared China would never compromise its sovereignty

Duterte has said he would only talk to China after the release of the international court's verdict

Chinese foreign officials remain hopeful the Duterte administration will "work in unison" with China and "veer away" from the path taken by the Aquino administration which had filed the case with the international tribunal. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)

On June 30, during his first meeting with his Cabinet, Duterte said that should the Philippines obtain a favorable ruling, it will not "flaunt" it. He said then that "if we decide right, we might also find some alleviation for some of the problems here."

China prefers bilateral talks with the Philippines in the resolution of the dispute over the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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