MANILA — China on Tuesday thanked the Philippines for its "great contributions" as the country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations for the past 3 years as Myanmar takes over the new role.
In a Facebook post, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines lauded the Philippines for "making progress" in the negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea despite the pandemic.
The Preamble for the COC has been "provisionally agreed on" by the parties, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin earlier announced.
"We look forward to continuing the close work with our Philippines colleagues in maintaining the good momentum of COC consultations, and toward a brighter future of China-ASEAN relations," the Embassy said, adding that the foreign ministers "have agreed to continuously deepen anti-pandemic cooperation, promote economic recovery, and maintain peace and stability in the region."
The Philippines last week officially turned over the Coordinatorship of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations to Myanmar during the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting.
In the meeting, Locsin said disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, citing the 2016 Arbitral Award as "most helpful in clarifying maritime issues."
China claims nearly all of the waters, ignoring the arbitral award. It has overlapping claims with ASEAN members Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, and with Taiwan.
Addressing Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and ASEAN ministers at the virtual meeting, Locsin said the award "singles out no one" and "was carefully crafted" that it cannot be used as "a weapon for disputation."
Speaking before the 11th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting held on August 4, Wang reiterated China has sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, which it calls Nansha Qundao, claiming that it is the first to have discovered, named and explored the South China Sea islands or what it calls the Nanhai Zhudao.
The Arbitral Tribunal in 2016 concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its so-called "nine-dash line."
Under the current administration, the Philippines has pursued friendlier ties with China, with President Rodrigo Duterte setting aside the dispute in pursuit of Chinese investments and aid.
In May, Duterte called the arbitral ruling a mere piece of paper.