President Rodrigo Duterte has assured members of the Diplomatic Corps that the Philippines would “honor international treaties and obligations” but stopped short of taking a definitive stand on ongoing territorial disputes.
At the same time, Duterte said his government was “committed to signing peace agreements in step with constitutional reform”.
Duterte made these pronouncements during his inaugural speech after taking his oath at the Rizal Hall in Malacanang on Thursday, June 30.
This is the first time that Duterte spoke of international affairs since being asked about his stance on the ongoing conflict between the Philippines and China for ownership of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The former mayor avoided the issue during his last flag-raising ceremony in Davao City, saying, “Wag na muna nating pakialaman yan. I have to talk to everybody in government to decide, including the military.”
(Let us not interfere with that first. I have to talk to everybody in government to decide, including the military.)
Duterte said, however, that he was considering holding bilateral talks with China on the matter – a position which his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, rejected, preferring instead to take the case for arbitration before an international court.
READ: Decision on PH case vs China to be out in 2016
Duterte also reiterated his administration’s commitment “to sign peace agreements”.
While there was no mention as to which groups he was interested in forging peace with, the Duterte administration has resumed negotiations with the communist rebels and is faced with the task of reviewing the stalled passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Bangsamoro talks suspended in House Abbie Escarilla