February 24, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday China could have misunderstood Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., prompting its Commerce Minister Gao Huchen to cancel his trip to the Philippines.
"There seems to be a misunderstanding between the Foreign Department, Foreign Affairs Department of the government of the Republic of the Philippines...the problem is I think Secretary (Perfecto) Yasay (Jr) was misunderstood by the Chinese government," Duterte said in a speech during the turnover of a drug rehabilitation facility of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Davao del Norte.
Duterte was referring to the recent strong statement made by Yasay against China's 'militarization" on its man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea.
"(Chinese) Secretary of Commerce who's supposed to be here today cancelled his trip. I don't know for what reason. But I said if the reason is because of misunderstanding, I will not deviate from my word of honor," he said.
He said he will honor his promise to Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would not raise yet the July 2016 arbitral award on the Philippines regarding its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.
Duterte said he wants to have "good relations" first between the Philippines and China.
"We should be friends first so that when we face each other, we have the respect and there is dignity on both sides," he said.
"I would like to assure China and this is what I have committed to do when I was there: that we will talk as friends, we cannot go to war because we cannot afford it and that as much as possible, the bilateral relations between the two countries would be enhanced and improved and trade and commerce between the two countries greatly improved."
Duterte undertook a state visit to China in October last year.
The president reiterated that under his presidency, he will raise the issue of the arbitral judgment with China, but not now.
Gao, along with a large delegation, was supposed to arrive in Manila on Thursday. But a last minute cancellation was made reportedly after Yasay's statement against China.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez had said Gao's trip was just moved due to their internal meetings in China. The trip could take place by first week of March. Celerina Monte/DMS
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