A visit to China by the special envoy of recently-elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is tasked with improving ties with Beijing, has been called off until “the proper time.”
Duterte has selected Fidel Ramos, a former Philippine President, to kick off a complex process of dialogue with China following a landmark ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea dispute between the two sides.
The website of the Philippine embassy first broke the news of the postponement, saying Filipino expats’ gathering with Ramos had been annulled.
A Ramos’ aide, speaking condition of anonymity, confirmed the report on Tuesday, saying the envoy still planned to visit Beijing, but “at the proper time.”
The Philippines or China had made no official announcement about the trip.
Informed sources said the trip was revoked as it clashed with the schedule of Duterte, who is due to pay a visit to Vietnam on Wednesday evening.
“The president’s visit to a number of Asian countries is being arranged,” the source said.
Duterte has expressed his willingness to maintain good relations with China unlike the former president, Benigno Aquino.
China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea overlap in parts with Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
In July, The Hague-based court ruled in a case brought by Manila that China’s claims to sovereignty over the disputed areas in the South China Sea or its resources “had no legal basis.”
The tribunal also accused Beijing of violating the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights. China, however, rejected the ruling, saying the court had no jurisdiction over the issue.
Manila seeks new alliances
Duterte on Tuesday also stressed his determination to have “many new alliances” by next year, especially with China and Russia.
However, he called on Beijing to control drug gangs smuggling narcotics into his country.
“If you consider us your friend and want to help us, most of the materials are from China, what does that mean?” he said in a speech after inspecting an illegal amphetamine factory.
The Filipino president’s remarks come as Manila, a longtime US ally, appears to have changed its stance towards Washington.
He said he would not allow the US to “impose on us anything.”
Earlier this month, Philippine President urged the United States to withdraw its special forces troops from a group of southern islands more than a week after the Philippine leader insulted US President Barack Obama with vulgar and undiplomatic language.
However, Filipino Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said his country’s relations with the US will remain unchanged, attributing Duterte’s statement to his commitment to save lives of the Americans in the restive region.