MANILA -- A state-run newspaper in China praised President Rodrigo Duterte's policy that allows Chinese fishermen to venture into waters where the Philippines is supposed to have exclusive rights over resources.
Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday, said the fishing deal in the West Philippine Sea would prevent war between war and Beijing.
"Why did Duterte persist in acting in a peaceful, cooperative and restrained way in the South China Sea despite some domestic criticism and US instigation? Because Duterte has realized that putting disputes aside and seeking cooperation with China brings most benefits to his country," columnist Li Qinqing said in an opinion piece on Global Times.
"Through cooperative development, China and the Philippines are making an effort to ease tensions in the region and explore a new path of regional cooperation," added Li.
Global Times is published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily and has a circulation of 260,000 copies a day, according to its website.
Duterte has drawn scrutiny for refusing to flaunt a 2016 ruling by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.
Countries that have accused Beijing of "bullying" over the maritime dispute should "focus on joint development rather than hyping the South China Sea issue and badmouthing China," wrote Li.
China and the Philippines' ties should be a model for the region, Li said, noting that the 2 sides last year agreed "to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability."
Duterte and Xi also signed a joint memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development, which would reduce Manila's "over-reliance on the international energy market," said the columnist.
"Instead of struggling with disputes, doesn't such win-win cooperation bring greater advantage to both sides?" said Li.
The columnist also claimed that Beijing "continues to restrain itself on the South China Sea issue" and that otherwise, it "could have already used coercive measures to take back all the islands illegally occupied by other countries."
"But this does not mean China is a pushover. China is determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, and also has the goodwill to maintain peace and promote cooperation in the South China Sea," Li wrote.
China claims it has historic right of ownership to almost the entire South China Sea, a vital trade route with more than $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passing through it every year.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of the waters.
With a report from Reuters