BEIJING – The Philippines and China should exercise “restraint and caution” to prevent an escalation of the tension in the South China Sea, President Duterte declared during his recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The President pushed for peace and stability in the disputed waters after raising the Philippines’ concerns on the West Philippine Sea when he met behind closed doors with Xi at the Great Hall of the People last Thursday.
“President Duterte reiterated to President Xi his resolve to endeavor to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said. “He expounded the need for both countries to exercise restraint and caution to avoid actions that could complicate situations,” Panelo added.
Duterte ended his four-day visit to China where he attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation upon the invitation of Xi. He flew back to Davao Saturday night.
At the sidelines of the Belt and Road summit, Duterte and Xi have agreed to resolve the South China Sea issue through continued bilateral negotiations. The two leaders also agreed to sustain economic and security cooperation despite the territorial conflict.
“Both agree that the situation can be managed by the mechanism of bilateral negotiations, but it should not affect the cooperation being undertaken by both the Philippines and China,” Panelo said.
He said Xi considers the Philippines China’s ally in Southeast Asia but Duterte pressed that allies should “strengthen” and “not destroy” each other.
The high-level meeting came amid the government’s concerns on the presence of dozens of Chinese ships near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and the alleged poaching of giant clams or “taklobo” in Panatag Shoal. (Genalyn Kabiling)