China’s Ambassador to Manila downplayed the maritime dispute with the Philippines as he called for a peaceful resolution of the long-standing territorial row.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the Philippines and China have “the wisdom, the patience and the courage to settle the disputes through negotiations and consultations.”
“Compared with our thousand-year-old friendship and extensive cooperation, the difficulties we are facing on the South China Sea issue are temporary. It is our common responsibility to handle the South China Sea issue in a proper and peaceful manner,” Zhao said during the 13th anniversary of Filipino-Chinese friendship day on Tuesday night.
Zhao told members of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FCCCII) that promoting bilateral friendship and cooperation is the fundamental interest of the Philippines and China to ensure peace and stability in the region.
President Benigno Aquino III, who was also present at the event hosted by the FCCCII, responded to Zhao statements with an assurance that Filipino-Chinese relations do not end with the ongoing sea dispute.
“In my visit to the People’s Republic of China–the State Visit of 2011–perhaps one of the most encouraging things that we heard from them, President Hu Jintao was that the disputes that we do have in the sea that borders our respective lands should not be the sum total of our relationships,” Aquino said.
“Our relationships are based on so many more things, not just on this dispute, and that peace and stability are necessary components for our own–for everybody’s progress,” the President added.
Aquino’s and Zhao’s remarks came after the United Nations arbitral tribunal handling the case filed by the Philippines against China ordered the Asian giant to submit its counter arguments.
China has reiterated that it will not join the arbitration proceedings initiated by the Philippines and maintained that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the contested territories.
Last month, Aquino accused China of violating an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea after its reclamation efforts in the Mabini Reef were discovered.
Aquino also revealed last week that Chinese ships that may be used for reclamation were seen in the Gavin and Cuarteron Reefs.