China asks PHL to properly handle South China Sea dispute

BEIJING-- China asked on Friday the Philippines to continue to properly handle the South China Sea dispute with China and other claimant countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made this appeal during a press briefing when asked to comment on reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered troops to deploy on unoccupied South China Sea islands.

We expressed concern over it and we hope the Philippines side can continue to properly (handle) the maritime dispute with China and to maintain this stable growth in China-Philippines relations, Hua said.

Hua, however, said the MFA had not received any reports about President Duterte's alleged order to occupy the vacant islands in the disputed territory, also being partly claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

I want to say that China is committed to defend its territorial sovereignty and maritime interest and maintain peace and stability in South China Sea, the foreign official said.

Currently the situation in South China Sea is generally stabilized and improving. We believe the situation is heart-warming and deserves cherish and protection, she added.

Meanwhile, Hua denied that artificial islands are being built in South China Sea, saying construction is aimed at improving the living condition of Chinese personnel in the area.

These islands were not created by China from scratch. China construction is necessary aimed at improving the living conditions of Chinese personnel there, he said.

Hua said China's decision to have installation in South China Sea was also aimed at providing better international trade of goods for ships passing the areas.

Late last year, President Duterte made a decision to temporarily shelve the maritime dispute with China in favor of renewed ties with the world's second largest economy.

The Filipino leader has actually visited Beijing upon invitation of President Xi Jinping in October last year, a trip that resulted in USD24-billion worth of funding and investment pledges.

Last week, Hua announced that China and the Philippines held the inaugural meeting of China-Philippines joint coast guard committee for maritime cooperation, during which the two sides agreed on a list of cooperation projects for 2017 through friendly consultation.

The list of cooperation includes high level visits, visits by vessels and ships, joint exercises and capacity building.

Hua said the China coast guard has invited their Philippine counterpart to send a delegation to visit China at an early date.

The two sides are communicating on the specifics of relevant matters. We believe that cooperation between the two coast guards will help deepen mutual trust and friendship between China and the Philippines and give impetus for the healthy and steady growth of bilateral relations, Hua said.

The trade and commerce officials of the two countries are also in talks for possible construction of industrial park in the Philippines.

President Xi Jinping has invited again President Duterte to attend the Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum on May 14-15 in Beijing.

Source: Philippines News Agency