MANILA - China’s ambassador in Manila and the chief of the Philippine Coast Guard met Thursday and talked about the cooperation of the two countries’ coast guards.
Ambassador Huang Xilian’s courtesy visit to Admiral Artemio Abu at the PCG headquarters came days after the Philippines’ foreign affairs department announced a fresh diplomatic protest it filed against China over its fishing ban in parts of the West Philippine Sea until August and that it had summoned an embassy official over the harassment by the Chinese coast guard of a Philippine research team in April.
“This courtesy visit is intended to review friendly exchanges and cooperation between the PCG and China Coast Guard (CCG),” Abu said, according to a PCG statement posted on the agency’s Facebook account.
Huang, in a separate Facebook post, said he and Abu “had constructive discussion on strengthening our partnership and cooperation.”
“I believe more friendly exchanges and cooperation between our two Coast Guards will contribute to promoting peace and stability in this region,” he added.
There was no specific discussion on the current situation in the West Philippine Sea, nor did Abu convey the Philippine government’s concerns regarding Chinese activities there, according to PCG spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo.
“Only coast guard functions cooperation” was tackled by the two officials, said Balilo.
“We look forward to exchange views on possible capacity-building activities between the PCG and CCG to strengthen rapport and confidence among PCG and CCG personnel,” said Abu.
The Philippines and China are embroiled in a maritime dispute in the South China Sea despite an arbitration court invalidating Beijing’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich waters.
China has been aggressively asserting its claims in the South China Sea, reclaiming features there and fortifying them with military installations, as well as driving away fishermen and government vessels.
In its latest protest, Manila told Beijing that its fishing ban in the South China Sea covers areas "over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction."
"The declaration of a moratorium on fishing that extends to the West Philippine Sea has no basis in law, and undermines the mutual trust, confidence, and respect that should underpin bilateral relations, as affirmed most recently by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and President Xi Jinping during their Telesummit on 08 April 2022," the DFA said in its statement.
On the reported interference by the CCG and militia ships with a research vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources at the Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal, on April 21, the DFA it summoned a senior official of the Chinese Embassy in to protest the “harassment”.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs notes that only the Philippine Coast Guard has enforcement jurisdiction over these waters. The presence of foreign vessels following tracks that are neither continuous nor expeditious, that are not consistent with Article 19 of UNCLOS on innocent passage, are against the interests of the Philippines,” it said.