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Manila's new leader sends positive signal to Beijing

(China Daily)    09:44, June 11, 2016

The incoming new government of the Philippines has indicated a desire for talks to solve its territorial dispute with China, igniting hopes that a fresh atmosphere can replace the chaos in the South China Sea that has characterized the past few years.

China has responded warmly by vowing to treat the Philippines as a "partner of priority" in regional cooperation.

Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte, said on Thursday that the incoming leader has "determined on friendly ties with China".

"The new Philippine government will carry out bilateral talks with China," Panelo said in Manila, according to China News Service. He made the remarks at an evening party marking the 41st anniversary of diplomatic ties. Duterte will take office on June 30.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said at the event that good relations between Beijing and Manila are in line with the basic interests of the two peoples, the news report said.

"The Philippines is an important country on the Maritime Silk Road and a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank," he said.

China is willing to view the Philippines as "a partner of priority" in the Belt and Road Initiative, in regional trade, industrial capacity cooperation and other areas, the report quoted Zhao as saying.

"We're willing to work with the new government of the Philippines to draw a new blueprint to lead bilateral relations back to the channel of healthy development," Zhao said, drawing applause from the audience.

Perfecto Yasay, the incoming Philippine foreign minister, said on Thursday in an interview published in the Chinese Commercial News that he will "invite China to join us to ensure peaceful settlement of our conflicts and difficulties".

Duterte said earlier that he would consider bilateral dialogue with China on the South China Sea issue if multilateral talks fail to make progress.

China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday insisting on bilateral negotiations with the Philippines to solve the South China Sea issue. It said Manila had shut the door to dialogue by seeking to settle the dispute through the international tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

A ruling by the international arbitration body is expected within weeks. The process was launched by the Philippines to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing has expressed strong opposition to the move, the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The Chinese Society of International Law on Friday released a paper saying any award by the tribunal is "null and void". It said the body's claim of jurisdiction, issued in October, filled with errors both of fact and the application of law. It cited six major errors by the tribunal.

"Political decisions will have no legal effect," the paper said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yao Chun,Bianji)

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