MANILA--China reiterated it will not accept and recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea and called for the implementation of the “consensus” reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo Duterte “on properly handling the arbitration case.”
In a written response to reporters’ questions, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian stressed that claimants to resolve disputes through dialogue, calling it the “right path “that is most in line with the interests of the countries in the region.”
“In 2016, our two presidents reached an important consensus on properly handling the arbitration case, which served as an important foundation for the turnaround of the bilateral relations. China's position on the arbitration case is consistent and clear. We will not accept and participate in the arbitration, nor will accept or recognize the so-called ruling,” Huang said.
The Chinese envoy said relations between Beijing and Manila “have maintained a healthy and stable momentum of development” with exchanges and cooperation in various fields, promoting “peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
He pointed out the establishment of the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea issue, which he said returned “to the right track of resolving relevant issues through negotiation.”
“We sincerely hope that the Philippines will continue to work with us to safeguard the hard-won overall sound situation of bilateral relations and of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Huang said, stressing the need to implement the consensus reached between Duterte and Xi.
“First, we must earnestly implement the principles and consensus reached by the two heads of state on the South China Sea issue. This is the foundation for China-Philippines relations to maintain a healthy and stable development.”
“Second, we should avoid misjudgment caused by unilateral actions that would complicate the situation in the disputed waters,” he added, saying that both sides should continue “to maintain close communication on maritime issues through existing dialogue channels such as the BCM and avoiding media speculation.”
He also urged the establishment of a bilateral maritime and air liaison mechanism to deal with maritime emergencies “in a more timely and effective manner.”
ENVOY SAYS US “MOST DANGEROUS EXTERNAL FACTOR”
Calling the South China Sea “the common home of China, Philippines, and other ASEAN littoral countries”, Huang said “peace and stability are China's greatest strategic interests in the South China Sea and the common strategic demands of China and ASEAN countries” and called the United States as the “most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability” in the South China Sea.
“Facts have proved that the US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS. All regional countries should be vigilant, and prevent the region’s hard-won peace and development from being sabotaged,” Huang said.
Huang said China has proposed to hold face-to-face consultations in China to push forward with the second reading of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, expressing hope that “all parties will work harder to speed up the negotiation in a flexible and pragmatic way.”
China proposed to complete the consultation on the COC by 2021 but the pandemic “has temporarily delayed the consultation process” but with China, the Philippines, as the coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, and other ASEAN countries “maintaining communication” on the resumption of the COC consultation.
China expressed willingness to carry out joint development of oil and gas with the Philippines and expand cooperation in the digital economy.
“China is willing to continue to strengthen practical cooperation at South China Sea with the Philippines and promote joint development of oil and gas so as to bring tangible benefits to our two peoples,” Huang said.
“What is worth paying attention to is that the world has entered the information age, and data has become the most important ‘oil and gas’ in the era of digital economy. China and the Philippines have mutual advantages in the field of digital economy and have a broad room for cooperation.
"The two countries should not only promote the traditional joint development of offshore oil and gas, but also vigorously expand cooperation in the field of digital economy," the envoy said.
Huang, meanwhile, expressed hope for China to be able to supply the Philippines with Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccines.
“We have noted the Philippine government has been negotiating with various vaccine developers, including Chinese vaccine enterprises. We are happy to see positive progress in vaccine cooperation between China and the Philippines,” Huang said.
“I hope Chinese vaccines could contribute to the fight of Filipino government and people against COVID-19 at an early date. China is willing to work with the Philippines to fight the pandemic and help the Philippine economy and society return to normal as soon as possible,” he said.
Huang welcomed the growth of Philippine exports to China, saying that its monthly year-on-year growth rate shifting “from negative to positive for the first time,” adding that China became the “second-largest export market of the Philippines” while remaining to be the Philippines' largest trading partner and largest source of imports.
He also cited a “surge” in Chinese investment in the Philippines with China Telecom invest more than $5 billion in Dito Telco, Panghua Group investing $3.5 billion to build a steel plant which he said “will bring tens of thousands of jobs to local Filipinos.”
He also cited China’s online learning firm 51talk hiring more than 27,000 Filipino online English teachers “and is poised to hire another 30,000 Filipinos.”
“Chinese enterprises have been playing a positive role in stimulating the economy, creating jobs, improving people’s livelihood and providing service to the community in the Philippines. According to incomplete statistics, 50 major Chinese enterprises in the Philippines alone have directly and indirectly created about 40,000 jobs for Filipinos,” Huang said.
He said that China and the Philippines are pursuing cooperation under the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the "Build, Build, Build" program of the Duterte administration “to create new growth points for the Philippine economic recovery.”
He said that the two countries have so far completed 11 intergovernmental cooperation projects, “covering drug control, anti-terrorism, food security, radio and television services and other fields” with six projects under implementation and 18 projects under planning, “involving infrastructures such as roads and railways, flood control and irrigation and other livelihood projects.”