MANILA, Philippines - In a sign of friendship and goodwill, Philippine defense and military officials shared the same stage together with officials from the Chinese Embassy in Manila, with both sides expressing confidence that the ongoing territorial dispute will be resolved peacefully.
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Jessie Dellosa led government officials who attended the reception hosted by the Chinese Embassy Tuesday night to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army of China.
In his speech, Chinese Defense and Armed Forces Attaché Senior Colonel Chen Fangming expressed confidence that the Philippines and China will reach a peaceful settlement to resolve the territorial dispute over Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island to the Chinese; Panatag Shoal to the Philippines) if both sides continue to make a "frank dialogue."
He cited the "consensus" reached by Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie and Secretary Gazmin regarding Scarborough Shoal and the South China Sea when they met in Cambodia last May.
"They reached three consensus: each side should restrain words and actions, avoid potential escalation of the issue; maintain the door open for communication and seek good solutions. I am confident that if we try our best to make frank dialogue rather than monologue, we could find good solutions to disputes and resume our friendly relations," Chen said.
Chen made an assurance that China's rise poses no threat to other countries, describing the rise as a "peaceful" one.
"I can [assure] you that peaceful development is China's national policy. China holds high the banner of peace, development and cooperation, maintains its commitment to the new security concepts of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, pursues a foreign policy of building an amicable partnership and an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood," Chen said.
He characterized China's defense policy as "defensive in nature" and that its military is a "force of peace defender and promoter."
"China will not adopt the approach of military expansion now or in the future, no matter how its economy develops. So our national policy determines that our defense policy is defensive in nature and our armed forces is a force of peace defender and promoter," Chen said.
"The size of our defense expenditure adheres to the principle of coordinated development of national defense and economic development. I know there are various perceptions about China's rise. Therefore, we need more frank communication and dialogue, which requires mindful listening and speak with empathy."
In his remarks, Gazmin said differences between the two countries should not affect their overall bilateral relationship.
He stressed that a resolution to these differences should be based on international law.
"While our two countries are faced with different challenges, we both share the view that this should not undermine the overall relationship of our two countries as we both search for a political and diplomatic means to resolve our differences with international law as our common basis and framework," Gazmin said.
He added that the presence of the Filipino officials in the occasion indicates the commitment to "keep the lines of communication open" between the defense establishments of both countries.
"Our presence in this celebration manifests our commitment to keep the lines of communication open between our defense establishments as agreed upon during my bilateral meeting with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie," Gazmin said.
"I believe that our governments, our peoples, and our armed forces have enough goodwill which we should all utilize to further our bilateral relations amidst these difficult times."
Gazmin acknowledged the "continued engagement" of the Philippine Armed Forces with the People's Liberation Army of China in working "for peace and stability in the region."
He offered a toast "for the pursuit of peace in the region."
Chen offered a toast for the friendship and cooperation between the two countries, "for a better communication, right understanding, closer coordination and cooperation between our armed forces."
Earlier, Chen noted the developments in the two countries' defense relationship since it was established in 1996: friendly exchanges and visits of military delegates and military students, mutual visits of navy ships and aircrafts, and the establishment of a defense and security consultation mechanism.
He added that China's National Defense Ministry has offered its Philippine counterpart with "several dozens of engineering equipment for road construction and disaster rescue operations."
"All of these activities have brought about mutual understanding and good relationship," Chen said.
Incoming defense attaché
Chen, who is about to finish his official duty in Manila, thanked the Philippine Foreign Affairs and Defense departments, the AFP, the PNP, Coast Guard, the Filipino-Chinese and diplomatic communities for thir support.
In the same occasion, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing introduced Chen's successor as Defense and Armed Forces Attaché: Senior Colonel Wang Jinbo.