By Christina Mendez and Marvin Sy
BEIJING – The Philippines’ claim over the disputed areas in the South China Sea will not be abandoned despite President Duterte’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Summit.
Ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana said the South China Sea dispute might derail trade and economic ties once it is forced amidst the reinvigorated ties between Manila and Beijing.
“It could, if it is not handled properly, as we experienced in the past couple of years. Here you have to understand the broad strategic approach of the Duterte administration,” he said when asked if the South China Sea dispute would be brought up during Duterte’s attendance at the Belt and Road forum.
The improved bilateral relations between the Philippines and China had resulted in the granting of about $24 billion in investment deals under the Duterte administration.
This is apart from any other benefit that the government may also gain from participating in the Belt and Road Forum, which will be attended by 28 heads of state today and tomorrow.
In a press briefing, Sta. Romana explained the reasons for the need to put the South China Sea issue on a “separate track,” saying it would help the two countries deal with areas of cooperation and common interests.
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