Rodrigo Duterte affirmed that the Philippines would continue working with Japan to resolve sea disputes and other areas of mutual concern.
“The Philippines will continue to work closely with Japan on issues of common concern in the region and uphold shared values of democracy, adherence to the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes, including the South China Sea,” Duterte said after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
Duterte’s increasing shift to China, away from the United States, has prompted Japan to seek clarification.
Manila and Tokyo are locked in separate disputes with Beijing in the South and East China Seas, respectively.
“Maintaining open and stable seas is essential in the region. The two leaders shared the view that the South China Sea holds sea lanes vital for global economic activity and viability,” the two leaders’ joint statement read.
“In this regard, the two leaders stressed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as anti-piracy efforts and cooperation.”
Duterte also assured Japan that the Philippines would continue to acknowledge the importance of the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea.
The arbitral ruling, released in July, invalidated China’s sweeping historic claims to the contested waters.
China however is not recognizing the Philippines’ legal victory in the sea row.
The Philippines and China, nonetheless, agreed to resume dialogue on their dispute during Duterte’s state visit to China last week
Duterte assured Japan that he would not enter into military deals with Beijing, and that he would also not abandon the Philippines’ partnership with Japan.