DAVAO CITY – Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Barak Obama briefly touched the South China Sea issue during in five-minute phone conversation on late Tuesday night.
This was confirmed by Duterte’s Executive Assistant Christopher Lawrence Go, who said it was a brief overseas call from the US president at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Go said Mr. Obama called to congratulate Duterte for leading the Philippine elections on May 9.
He said the South China Sea issue was briefly mentioned and he heard the mayor telling Mr. Obama he is hoping for a favorable result of the case filed by the Philippine government before the United Nations arbitral tribunal.
Go said the mayor told Mr. Obama he is for the peaceful resolution of the Philippines’ claim of the South China Sea.
During the campaign, Duterte expressed full support to the case now pending in The Hague questioning China’s occupation of areas in the West Philippine Sea that the Philippines considers its territory. He is hopeful for a favorable ruling for the Philippines.
The mayor believes the Philippines should continue to work closely with other countries towards finding a solution to the issue. However, if this multi-lateral approach proves to be inadequate to resolve the issue, he is willing to explore other options including directly talking with China.
Duterte further believes that any military conflict involving the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea should not happen as it will derail Philippine economic growth.
Meanwhile, according to Go, Duterte was greatly honored by Mr. Obama’s call.
“I am very much honored Mr. President,” Go quoted the mayor telling Mr. Obama.
Go said both leaders were on a relax mood laughing at times during the conversation.
In a CNN Philippines report shared on Facebook, a senior White House aide Ben Rhodes said Washington wanted to know the priorities of the Philippines’ incoming administration and hoped “to build on progress made with the last administration.”