Manage any differences in friendly consultation

Published July 17, 2020, 11:02 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Philippine Secretary of Foreign  Affairs  Teodoro  Locsin  Jr.  met  with China Foreign Minister Wang Yi via teleconferencing  last Tuesday, July 14, at the end of which they declared that  continuing maritime issues are  not  the  sum total of  Philippines-China  relations and that “both sides will continue to manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation.”

Two days  earlier, Secretary  Locsin  had  spoken  on  the  anniversary of the  decision  of the  Arbitral Court  in The  Hague on July 12, 2016,  in which the Philippines  won  in its dispute  over   China’s  claims in  the South  China Sea.  The Chinese Embassy  in Manila had  responded,  striking a discordant  note in Philippines-China relations, but  presidential  spokesman  Harry  Roque  had   quickly reaffirmed  the  Philippines’ warm  relations with China, setting aside things  they  do not agree on, including the territorial dispute.

In  recent  days, there have been  efforts  by some  parties to stir up  the dispute among  several  countries over  various parts  of the South China Sea. The ASEAN and China have agreed  to  draw  up a “Code  of  Conduct”  to settle their differences. In the meantime, the United States  has sent warships into the area  asserting international freedom of navigation.

The  Philippines  and China have reached agreement  that  —   in the words of Secretary  Roque  —  “we will proceed with what we can continue with our friendship with China, like matters  on economic  and trade relations”  and “we  will set aside  other things that we do not  agree on, including  the territorial dispute.”

Today, there is much that is underway in the  Philippines’  economic  relations with China, including an irrigation project in the  Cordilleras, two donated bridges in Binondo  and Makati,  a Philippine-Sino  Center   for Agricultural Technology-Technical  Cooperation Program in the Central   Luzon State  University (CLSU), and a 60-40 joint  venture favoring the Philippines  in an oil and gas  exploration and development project in  the South China Sea.

Chinese  Ambassador  Huang  Xilian  has resumed inspection of projects via  teleconferencing,  including visits to the Cordilleras project, work on the two Pasig River bridges,  and the agricultural technology program  at  CLSU.

Philippines-China relations thus continue despite   disagreement  on some issues,  toward  a  global  dream of  “Community of Shared Future for Humanity,” in the words of a Chinese leader who once emphasized that “mankind has only one earth  to live on, and  countries have only one world to share.”

We continue to have  our differences with China, as  in our disagreement  over  the South China  Sea, but  as officials of the two nations pointed out this week, the contentious  maritime issues  are not the sum total of Philippines-China relationship  and both sides will continue to manage any differences  in  friendly  consultation.