Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
Manila fears quarrelling with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea might put off China from wanting to hold bilateral talks REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo

Amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will raise the issue with China only when he meets its leaders in person. He said he prefers quiet talks with Beijing rather than bringing it up during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.

The maritime dispute has been a topic of discussion in earlier Asean summits as several member-nations have overlapping claims on the sea.

Duterte will be attending his first international summit as president in September and he reportedly does not want to make "noise" that could jeopardise the chances of peaceful resolution of the dispute, the Associated Press reported.

"I will only bring the issue when we are together face to face," he told reporters. "Because if you quarrel with them now and you claim sovereignty, make noise here and there, they might not just even want to talk."

The Philippines and China have been locking horns ever since Manila took the dispute to The Hague court. The arbitral judgment favoured the Philippines, leaving China infuriated.

China rejected the ruling and continues with its expansion on the sea by blocking Filipino fishermen from the waters and building new islands.

Duterte's predecessor filed the case against China but the current president has adopted a softer approach. He reportedly believes that raising the issue at the Asean summit could only result in further straining of the already delicate relations between the two countries. He said the Philippines' special envoy to China and former president Fidel Ramos has expressed his desire to initiate talks with China for a peaceful resolution.

"Let us create an environment where we can sit down, talk directly, and that is the time when I would say, we proceed from here," he said.

Ramos and China's foreign affairs chief Fu Ying met in Hong Kong last week and agreed that the countries need to reduce tensions through talks.

On Tuesday (16 August), China and some Asean member- nations promised to complete the framework for South China Sea rules by mid-2017 after reaching a broad consensus on pushing forward the negotiations.