MANILA, Philippines - China remains a friend and trading partner of the Philippines despite the two countries' territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told senators that the Philippines will pursue its bilateral agenda with China, while abstracting contentious issues like the dispute over Scarborough Shoal.
He said the Philippines aims to yield P60 billion in total trade with China by 2016.
"We are still trying to pursue those targets and hope that the Chinese government is still true to its commitment that we will move forward with the bilateral agenda," Del Rosario said during a Senate finane committee hearing on the DFA's proposed P11.7-billion budget for 2013.
Del Rosario added that the Philippine government continues to look at China as a friend, neighbor, and partner, and welcomes its emergence as a prosperous country.
"But at the same time, we also look at the emergence of China and hope that their emergence is a China that is a responsible nation," he said.
Asked by senators about the status of Manila's territorial disputes with Beijing, Del Rosario explained that the Philippines is exploring all three possible tracks: political, diplomatic, and legal.
The political track involves seeking the help of fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries, while the diplomatic approach is about holding bilateral talks with China.
Once the Philippines takes the legal track, it would mean taking the dispute to an arbitration body like the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).The DFA had earlier said it is preparing to bring the matter to the ITLOS even without China's cooperation.
Del Rosario asked for an executive session to provide more details on the government's plan on settling the disputes with China.