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Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 21:01

Philippines ready to talk to China after tribunal ruling

By Agencies

Philippines ready to talk to China after tribunal ruling
This handout photo released and taken by the Presidential Communications Operations Office on July 5, 2016 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a speech during the Philippine Air Force's 69th anniversary celebration at Clark airbase in Angeles City, Pampanga province, north of Manila. (Rey BANIQUET / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' new president said Tuesday that Manila is ready to talk to China, not go to war, if an arbitration tribunal rules in its favor in a case it brought against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines "remains optimistic that the tribunal will rule in our favor." But if the ruling is not favorable, then the Philippines would accept and abide by it, he added.

"When it's favorable to us, let's talk," he said. "We are not prepared to go to war, war is a dirty word."

But he said the country will proceed accordingly after it obtains a copy of the judgment, and will base decisions on the Philippines' greater interest.

China said earlier that it is ready to start negotiations with the Philippines if Manila ignores the tribunal ruling, which is expected to be issued on July 12.

The Philippines brought the issue unilaterally to the international arbitration in January 2013. Beijing has repeated China's stance of non-acceptance of third-party dispute settlements or any imposed solution.

"The South China Sea arbitral case raised by the Aquino administration is illegal and invalid. … It is hoped the Philippines will meet China halfway and properly tackle relevant disputes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference on Friday.

At his first Cabinet meeting after taking office last week, Duterte expressed the need for the Philippines to fully study the impact of the ruling, whether favorable or not.

New Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay made sensitive remarks about the territorial disputes that were broadcast live by the state-run TV network before it abruptly cut away from its coverage of the Cabinet meeting.

Yasay spoke about an apparent wish by some foreign governments for Manila to issue a stronger statement about the dispute if the tribunal rules favorably. "I am adverse to that idea," he told Duterte and fellow Cabinet members.

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