By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines is committed to hold bilateral consultations with China to work out their differences over the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Tuesday.
The territorial conflict in the South China Sea and other matters related to President Duterte’s recent visit to Beijing, China were discussed during Cabinet meeting at the Palace Monday.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) next conveyed to the Cabinet what transpired during the President’s visit to Beijing for the Second Belt and Road Forum,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement Tuesday.
“Bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were both productive noting that two agreements were signed and that we will continue to work out our differences in our position with the West Philippine Sea through bilateral consultations,” Panelo added.
The President earlier said the Philippines and China should exercise restraint and avoid actions that will escalate tension in the South China Sea.
Duterte pushed for peace and stability in the disputed waterways after raising the country’s concerns over the presence of Chinese vessels in Pag-asa island, a Philippine territory during his bilateral meeting with Xi in Beijing last April 25.
Among the concerns of the Philippines aside from the Chinese vessels are the harassment alleged by Filipino fishermen and the alleged poaching of giant clams in Panatag Shoal.
In the meeting, Duterte and Xi agreed to resolve the conflict through bilateral negotiations, insisting that the situation should not affect the cooperation between the two nations.
The President also mentioned the 2016 Arbitral ruling that nullified China’s claims over the resource-rich South China Sea during the meeting with Xi. China however still refused to recognize the decision of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The President also brought home multibillion-dollar trade and investment deals during his four-day trip to China last month, according to Panelo.
“The President also witnessed the signing of 19 business agreements with an estimated investment value of US$12.165 Billion and is expected to generate more than 21,000 jobs,” Panelo added.