‘We’re friends’: Philippines reminds China of maritime ‘courtesies’

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2019 05:30 PM

MANILA - China should accord the Philippines the “courtesies” required of “friends,” Malacañang said Friday following sightings of Beijing’s research vessels and warships in Manila’s waters.

China did not ask for clearance before several of its warships passed through the Sibutu Strait in the Philippines' southern tip in 4 instances from February to July, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

“We’re friends, we provide each other with courtesies required of friendship,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador told reporters Friday.

Lorenzana earlier raised alarm after 2 Chinese research ships were monitored by a US-based maritime expert in the West Philippine Sea this week. The incidents have prompted a diplomatic protest from Manila.

While Panelo said he agrees with Lorenzana that China should have asked the Philippines for clearance, he however noted that it is yet to be confirmed whether Beijing’s government allowed the move.

“Even on the basis of friendship, then a matter of courtesy require that we should be informed of any passage to our exclusive economic zone,” Panelo said.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua meanwhile downplayed the rising tensions Friday, saying Beijing is "not seeking trouble" amid unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.

“There are a lot of ships that [are] navigating in the South China Sea. Within military, I think each one of the ships, particularly Navy ships, deserves careful observation. Not only the Chinese and the Philippines know but also everyone,” Zhao said on the sidelines of an event.

“China will continue to be a good friend, a good neighbor and close relatives of the Filipino people,” he said.

China has conflicting claims with several nations over large parts of the South China Sea through which roughly $3.4 trillion in shipping passes each year. 

Aside from the Philippines, other claimants include Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to China later this month for a one-on-one meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on maritime tensions and conflicting claims in the resource-rich waters.