MANILA - China on Thursday lauded the Philippines for rebuffing "attempts" of some countries to "incite tensions" in the West Philippine Sea.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Wenbin in a briefing claimed that countries outside the region are trying to stir up trouble and create tension.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines would not join navies of other countries in maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea for fear of raising tension in the area, citing a standing order by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippines advocates peaceful settlement of relevant disputes through legal means, Lorenzana said.
The Philippines and China have carried out many exchanges in epidemic control, people-to-people exchange and military, said Lorenzana, adding that it is believed that the two countries will gradually resume exchanges in various fields after the pandemic is overcome.
Wang said this statement is yet another proof of the Philippines' "independent foreign policy".
China and ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, are currently focusing on the fight against COVID-19 and resuming economic activities, Wang said.
A UN-backed tribunal has ruled in favor of the Philippines and said China’s sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, based on historic rights, have no legal basis.
It also determined some previously disputed features there, which China occupied and reclaimed, as being part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and that the Scarborough Shoal should remain open as traditional fishing ground for those who have long relied on it.
The court said China’s artificial island-building activities in the South China Sea have also caused marine environmental damage. The reclaimed features were later fortified with military installations.
China did not participate in the arbitration proceedings, which the Philippines initiated in 2013 after suffering from Beijing’s aggressive activities in the Scarborough Shoal. Insisting its position to deal with the maritime disputes bilaterally, China continues to disregard the award, which other countries have hailed.