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Manila, Beijing soft pedal on Sino vessels in WP Sea

CHINESE Ambassador Zhao Jinhua and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday downplayed the supposed presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippines Sea as disclosed by Magdalo Party-List Rep. Gary Alejano.

Zhao said it was natural to see Chinese vessels in the disputed areas of  the West Philippine Sea, and that China was strictly adhering to the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.

He said Article 5 of the DOC said China and Asean countries agreed there would be no reclamation nor rehabilitation or habitation of the uninhabitant maritime features in the area.

“Both China and the Philippines would adhere strictly to article 5 of DOC. But you may see some presence of Chinese ships or presence of Filipino ships, those are the part that are overlapping or disputed area [sic], so it’s quite natural for you to see some of the boats, fishing boats to be there,” he told a press briefing.

Zhao said Chinese ships in the area “are carrying their daily fishing.”

“You don’t have to be alarmed and both Chinese and the Filipino side have a clear understanding of what they are doing,” he said.

CHINESE DONATIONS. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (left), Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (center) and AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año (right) inspect Thursday the second batch of assault rifles donated by the Chinese government during a handover ceremony at the Canopy Area of the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. PAO AFP
There was no immediately available comment from the Department of Foreign Affaris.

According to Alejano, three vessels of Chinese maritime militia and a ship of the People’s Liberation Army were spotted between one and five nautical miles from the sandbars of Pag-asa Island. 

He said the Chinese vessels were “harassing our patrolling vessels by continuously sounding their sirens to signify their opposition to our vessels visiting or patrolling the sandbars.”

Zhao said China was committed to a peaceful solution to the dispute in the South China Sea.

“We do have disputes but we have to put it in a proper context. I said repeatedly, it only constitutes one percent of our overall bilateral relationship so we need to look at the bigger picture and focus on friendship and cooperation,” he said.

“In the meantime, we need to be sincere and to be candid in exchanging views, in seeking solution that is peaceful and that is acceptable to both sides,” Zhao added.

Meanwhile, the Philippines received on Thursday 3,000 M4 rifles, three million rounds of ammunition and 90 sniper scopes from China.

Receiving the Chinese donation at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinjua represented Beijing in the simple handover ceremony.

Lorenzana said the rifles and the ammunition would be given to the Philippine National Police while the sniper scopes would go to the military.

He said the PNP  needed firearms after the United States authorities tried to stop the former’s purchase of 26,000 firearms.

“According to the directive of the President, they will be given to the National Police. If you remember the PNP tried to buy 26,00 firearms from a dealer with the United States but it has taken them too long to deliver so we are lucky that the Chinese government provided firearms,” Lorenzana told a press briefing after the handover.

He said the firearms would just pass through the logistics department for record purposes and then would eventually be turned over to the PNP.

The Defense chief said the donation was made to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for formality’s sake.

Topics: Ambassador Zhao Jinhua , Secretary Delfin Lorenzana , Chinese vessels , West Philippines Sea , Rep. Gary Alejano
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