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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

China willing to ‘cooperate’ with PH over maritime dispute

CHINA is looking forward to have a diplomatic dialogue with the Philippines to discuss the unresolved South Sea disputes, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said on Monday.

“We do look forward to talk to the Philippines bilaterally,” Zhao told reporters at the sideline of the National Heroes Day’s celebration held at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“Right now, we need to change our focus. We need to change our focus from differences to common interests so that we can concentrate on cooperation that will benefit our two people,” he added.

Zhao’s statement came after President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that the Philippine government is not ready to declare war against China and stressed that the only way to address the sea row is to have bilateral talks with the Chinese officials.

“I don’t go to war… There’s always war and peace. If I am not ready for war, then, peace is the only way. I’ll keep silent now…For now, Mr. Ambassador, I want to just talk to you for the moment,” the President said at the event.

“So I hope that you’d treat us as your brothers, not your enemies. And take note for the plight of our citizens,” he added.

While he sought to ease the tension first between the two countries by avoiding tackling the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the disputed South China Sea, Duterte said time would come that he will bring up the decision.

“I will never bring the matter because it might lead only to the suspension of the talks in China and that is not good, Mr. Ambassador. So I propose that we just have a soft landing everywhere,” the President said.

“I will not use the judgment arbitral now but I would, one day, sit in front of your representative or you and then I will lay bare my position. And I would say that this paper, I cannot get out of the four corners of this document. And that’s just the arbitral judgment,” he added.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, noting that China's claim to most parts of the South China Sea has no basis.

For now, Duterte appealed to the Chinese government to allow the Filipino fisherfolk to fish in the contested Panatag Shoal.

China’s high court had warned that fishermen who are "illegally" fishing at the dispute maritime features could face jail term.

Zhao, however, said that China would look into the President’s appeal.

“We can discuss the possibility,” Zhao said. “I think the essence of diplomacy or diplomatic relation to China is to contribute to the well beings of our people." (Sunnex)
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