PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had a "productive and fruitful" meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua Monday, April 1, as the two discussed mutual concerns, including the loan agreement between the Philippines and China.
Zhao paid a courtesy call on Panelo on Monday afternoon amid several issues concerning both Manila and Beijing.
During the 50-minute talk, Panelo said he and Zhao acknowledged the value of "responsible" utilization of the marine resources of the disputed South China Sea, including the rich fishing ground of the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
"[We] give importance to the existing bilateral consultation mechanism between China and the Philippines as an avenue to address possible issues in the West Philippine Sea and to resolve any conflict or misunderstanding that may arise therefrom," Panelo said in a statement.
Earlier, Filipino fishermen were reportedly being driven away from Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground located 124 nautical miles from Zambales, by the Chinese Coast Guard.
Meantime, Panelo noted that Zhao had agreed with him that the terms of the Philippines's loan deal with China "were competently and fully negotiated by both parties on equal footing."
"According to Ambassador Zhao, it is the strong and robust economy of the Philippines that led the Chinese Government to extend preferential credit terms for the country's infrastructure plans," the Palace official said.
The statement came after Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio raised worry that China could seize natural gas and oil reserves in Reed Bank in case the Philippines fails to pay the $62-millionChinese loan for the Chico River Irrigation Loan Agreement.
Panelo said he and Zhao also talked about the filing of communication of former Philippine government officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He said they expressed the importance of "respect for the sovereignty of nations."
"Ambassador Zhao shares the official position of the Philippines on the possible weaponization of the ICC as a political tool, in stark contrast to the supposed spirit of the Rome Statute," he said.
With regard to the reported surge of Chinese national working in the country, Panelo said the Duterte administration was assured by the Chinese government that the latter "does not consent to any illegal entry or employment of its citizens in the country."
"In addition, he expressed concern on the possible exploitation of Chinese citizens in illegal gambling operations in the country and called for cooperation in strictly monitoring the situation and swift investigation and prosecution of those responsible," Panelo said. (SunStar Philippinees)