Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua emphasized this in his welcome remarks at the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China Thursday night in Makati City.
“It is our belief that South China Sea issue is not the sum total of China-Philippine relations, nor disputes the sum total of South China Sea issue,” the Chinese envoy said.
Zhao said China will continue to attach great importance to the friendship and cooperation of the two countries, and will work hand in hand with Manila to handle bilateral relations from a “strategic and long-term perspective,” bring more benefits to the two peoples and inject more positive energy to regional peace and stability.
With China and the Philippines being “good neighbors, sincere friends, and trusted partners,” Zhao said Beijing is “committed to sharing the benefits of development” with Manila.
During the 5th visit of President Duterte to China last month, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to seek the possibility of a joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.
“We would also like to make concerted efforts with the Philippines to promote substantial progress of the joint exploration of oil and gas,” he said.
The Chinese diplomat stressed that China has a greater stake in safeguarding peace and stability in one of the world’s most contentious body of water “than any other country.”
This, he said, is obvious because more than 60 percent of China’s foreign trade and energy supplies pass through the South China Sea.
“China is committed to sharing the benefits of development with the Philippines,” Zhao said.
To further ensure that peace and stability reigns in the region, the Chinese envoy said Beijing would like to work together with Manila and give full play to existing mechanisms such as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) and Joint Coast Guard Committee (JCGC) to properly manage their differences.
Furthermore, Zhao said they will continue to support the Philippines as country coordinator of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, hoping that during the Philippines’ tenure, the Code of Conduct (COC) could be concluded with the aim of turning the South China Sea into a “sea of peace, friendship and prosperity.”