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Salute, support Duterte when he raises pro-PHL arbitral ruling in China —Del Rosario

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday hailed President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to finally raise with China the international arbitration ruling that invalidated massive Chinese claim in the disputed South China Sea.

"Let us salute him and assure him of the support of all Filipinos," the country's former top diplomat said in a statement.

Del Rosario spearheaded the successful arbitration case that resulted in the legal victory for the Philippines in connection with the South China Sea disputes.

Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President will raise the 2016 ruling of the The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which China refuses to recognize, when he meets President Xi Jinping in China sometime this month.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said both sides have yet to finalize the date and agenda of the meeting.

"There is no final date yet. I will be talking to the Chinese ambassador and finalize the agenda," Locsin told reporters Wednesday night.

Duterte, who decided to shelve the 2016 arbitration ruling that denigrated Beijing's massive sea claims, has been criticized for his friendly overtures to China despite its aggressive actions and efforts to drive away Filipinos from its own waters in the West Philippine Sea.

Unlike his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, Duterte has taken a non-confrontational approach on Manila's territorial disputes with China in exchange for loans and aids.

However, he said he will raise the arbitral ruling with China at a proper time.

China and five other governments - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan – are embroiled in long-running disputes over the South China Sea, particularly in its southern part, called the Spratlys.

Beijing insists it has historic rights over the resource-rich waters where huge minerals and natural oil and gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

Analysts feared that competing claims to the South China Sea could become Asia’s next potential flash point for a major armed conflict. —NB, GMA News