MANILA -- The Philippine foreign policy is "solely based on our national security and interest," Malacañang said Sunday following the signing of P633 billion worth of new deals with China.
Manila's business delegation to the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing signed 19 business deals, majority of which cover energy, infrastructure, food, telecommunications, tourism, and economic zone development with Chinese firms.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the same event also agreed to resolve maritime tensions in the South China Sea through "peaceful, diplomatic" means, Manila's envoy to Beijing said.
"Our countrymen are assured that the President is chartering our independent foreign policy to a new height of diplomatic relations with other nations, solely based on our national security and interest and towards a direction that will contribute to our national development, as well as the realisation of the aspiration of our people to attain economic progress and comfortable life for the greater masses of our countrymen," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Duterte, in bilateral meetings with Chinese leaders, "affirmed our commitment to friendship and understanding with China," the Palace official said in a statement.
The President, he added, "expressed the country’s readiness to pursue more high-quality and good-impact projects."
Speaking with Xi, Duterte also reiterated "his resolve to endeavour to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, stability and prosperity."
"He expounded the need for both countries to exercise restraint and caution to avoid actions that could complicate situations," said Panelo.
The signing of business deals with China follows reports of sightings of hundreds of Chinese vessels off the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the pillaging of giant clams by Chinese fishermen in another area of the disputed waters.
A United Nations-backed arbitration court in 2016 junked Beijing's "historic rights" to nearly 90 percent of the waterway, a conduit for some $3.4 trillion of goods.
China has refused to recognize the ruling, which Duterte set aside as he sought investments and loans from Beijing.
The world's number 2 economy has denied that the vessels circling Pag-asa Island are part of a militia. China is also willing to investigate the poaching of giant clams at Scarborough Shoal, a Philippine envoy said last week.