Differences in South China Sea are not sum total of PH-China ties, says DFA chief
Updated at 2:42 p.m.
MANILA – The Philippines’ foreign minister on Saturday said his nation’s differences with China in the South China Sea are not the sum total of relations between the two countries.
“These differences should not prevent us from seeking ways of managing them effectively, especially with respect to enjoyment of rights of Filipinos, especially fishermen,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said at the start of bilateral talks in Manila with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang.
The Philippines has previously raised diplomatic protests at the presence of Chinese fishing vessels and what it calls China’s “aggressive actions” in the strategic waterway.
Qin said on Saturday China is ready to work with the Philippines to implement a consensus between the two countries and properly resolve differences.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, which sees the passage of about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne annually and is believed to be rich in minerals and oil-and-gas deposits.
A landmark arbitration ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 invalidated China’s claims. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines have competing claims in the waterway.
Top trading partner
Meanwhile, Manalo said that China has been the Philippines’ top trading partner and that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief will continue to work to deepen these ties. He also said that the $22.8 billion in investment pledges from China are coming to fruition.
“I was pleased to learn that the investment pledges worth $22.8 billion made during the state visit are slowly being realized,” said Manalo.
READ: Almost half of $22.8B investment pledges in Marcos China visit for green energy
Manalo however, did not specify in what aspects the billions of dollars were being spent on.
“Our cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure development, energy, and science and technology are important elements of our bilateral economic ties. The revival of tourism, resumption of flights, and the exchanges of students, teachers, and workers will further strengthen our people-to-people linkages. These would all support the Philippines’ 8-point economic agenda to improve the lives of Filipinos, and likewise benefit our friends from China,” said Manalo.
Tensions have long brewed in the West Philippine Sea, as cases of the Philippine Coast Guard and local fisherfolk being harassed by Chinese patrolmen have been documented. The Philippines has filed hundreds of diplomatic protests since 2016, but China has only responded to 71 percent of these.
China responded to 71% of PH protests over sea dispute — DFA
PH files 461 diplomatic protests vs China since 2016, says DFA
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