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China to Philippines: Remove ‘disturbances’ in relations

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
China to Philippines: Remove âdisturbancesâ in relations
This March 22, 2021 aerial photo shows Chinese vessels still present in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — China yesterday urged the Philippines to place maritime issues in context and “remove disturbances” in the relations between the two countries amid dangerous Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. held talks in Tunxi, Eastern Anhui province on Sunday.

“The two sides exchanged views on the South China Sea issue and held that maritime issues should be placed in an appropriate position in bilateral relations,” the embassy said in a statement.

Wang said China always considers the Philippines a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy, and such good-neighborly and friendly policy has continued to foster stability.

“The two sides should remove disturbances, calmly and properly manage differences and not let them affect the overall situation of China-Philippines relations,” Wang said.

He promised that China is ready to speed up construction of key infrastructure projects with the Philippines and continue to provide COVID-19 vaccine assistance and enhance public health cooperation according to the need of the Philippines.

Quoting Locsin, the embassy said the Philippines’ top diplomat gave assurance that “Philippines-China relations have become increasingly mature and bilateral practical cooperation has achieved historic results, bringing lasting benefits to both sides.”

“As a responsible major country, China is committed to independence and peaceful development, setting a new example in a turbulent world, Locsin said, adding that China has long promoted the development of other countries in the region through its own development and played an irreplaceable role in global economic growth,” the embassy said.

Wang met with three foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and exchanged views on China-ASEAN friendly relationship, regional and international topics including the Ukraine issue.

Chinese experts said the foreign ministers’ visit to China is a continuation of longstanding China-ASEAN relations and the tradition of negotiation and coordination over flashpoint issues, such as the neutrality stance over the Ukraine crisis.

A maritime law expert last week said the Chinese Coast Guard’s activities in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, are “contrary to international law.”

Lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, cited the “close distance maneuvering” of the Chinese Coast Guard ships in the face of Philippine Coast Guard vessels patrolling Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc as an activity outlawed by The Hague ruling on the South China Sea in 2016.

He blamed the government for China’s incursion in Philippine waters and the CCG’s dangerous manuevering, saying it allowed Beijing to operate in the disputed areas for almost six years under the Duterte presidency.

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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