The Philippines hopes for a “soft landing” in a dispute with China over the South China Sea when the arbitration court in The Hague delivers its ruling, the foreign minister said on Thursday, hours after Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president.
China claims almost all the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim the sea believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.
The Philippines brought a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China’s “excessive” claim to the waters. China had refused to recognise the case. A ruling is expected on July 12.
Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said he had rejected suggestions to issue a strong statement against China if the decision goes Manila’s way.
“I am averse to that idea,” Perfecto Yasay told Duterte’s first Cabinet meeting, saying the government would study the “implications and ramifications” of the decision first.
“There are a lot of nuances we do not know as yet,” he said. “It should be a soft landing… God knows, I really don’t want to declare any fighting with anyone.”