China, Philippines vow to deal with South China Sea disputes ‘cordially’, sign 14 deals to boost cooperation

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Visiting Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday. AP

Beijing: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing where both leaders vowed to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a joint statement, China and the Philippines agreed to set up a direct communications channel between their foreign ministries on the South China Sea. This would enable both countries to handle disputes peacefully.

From boosting economic cooperation to cooling down security tensions, the two Asian countries have signed 14 new deals as part of the joint statement.

Following the meeting with Xi, Marcos told reporters they had “discussed what we can do to move forward, to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have.”

The 14 new agreements

The 14 agreements signed between China and the Philippines included deals on agriculture, infrastructure, development cooperation, maritime security and tourism, among others, a statement from the Philippines presidential office said.

In the joint statement, the countries referred to each other as “close neighbours, kin and partners that help and understand each other towards win-win results through mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Xi also promised Marcos of cooperation, Chinese investment in Philippines and has extended support to develop villages and agricultural technology in the region.

Maritime cooperation

Both presidents agreed to strengthen maritime relations between the two countries and handle the situation in the South China Sea through “friendly consultations.”

Notably, the joint agreement comes at a time when China and the Philippines try to mend a relationship that went sour after the Philippines sought a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s expansion in the South China Sea.

Previously, the Philippines government also raised concerns over the Chinese construction activities and the “swarming” of Beijing’s vessels in South China Sea’s disputed waters, according to a report by Reuters.

The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that both the sides have will “continue to properly handle maritime issues through friendly consultations.”

China ready to resume oil and gas talks

The Chinese president opened the possibility of jointly exploring oil and gas resources in the non-disputed areas of the South China Sea with Philippines.

Both the countries also agreed to cooperate on solar and wind energy and increase imports of fishery products.

“We also discussed what we can do to move forward, to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have,” Marcos told reporters.

Beijing’s territorial claims on the oil and gas-rich areas of the South China Sea amount to about $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually. This has always been a source of tension between China and several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines.

Chinese investments in Philippines

Through a series of business meetings, President Marcos was able to ink several deals with Chinese investors.

Investment pledges include deals like $13.76 billion for renewable energy, $7.3 billion for strategic monitoring including electric vehicles and mineral processing, and $1.7 billion for agribusiness, according to Reuters.

Marcos told Chinese business executives, “I assure you that our government is committed to support your business activities in the country.”

With inputs from agencies

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