Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian has cautioned against countries trying to drive a wedge between Manila and Beijing using the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Huang said China is a true friend of the Philippines as shown by its readiness to help the Duterte administration secure vaccines while other countries were busy fanning maritime tensions in the region.
“Certain countries, while looking at Philippines’ anxiety of vaccine need with indifference, tried to sow discord by taking advantage of the differences between China and the Philippines,” the ambassador said during an online vaccine summit over the weekend.
“We should stay alert. The tougher the time is, the wider our eyes should be open. We would eventually know who the real friends and reliable partners are,” Huang added.
The Chinese ambassador made the statement days after President Rodrigo Duterte raised doubts on the commitment of the United States to come to the Philippines’ defense if maritime tensions come to a head.
The President also directed Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea not to leave the waterway despite the risk of damaging the country’s present relationship with China.
“This will really be a test: I read China said we (Philippine ships) should leave. I now say (to PH vessels): Do not leave. Period. Regardless of whether America will help us or not. Let us stop pinning our hopes on America. They will not help us. A nuclear war – you think America will intervene?” Duterte said Wednesday.
The President said he did not want to contend with China over the WPS, but reiterated the Philippines maintains its claim of sovereignty over the islands and the waters within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“I am stating it for the record: We do not want war with China. China is a good friend. We owe China a debt of gratitude – including our vaccines. Let it be known that China is a good friend and we do not want trouble with China. But there are things which are not really subject to a compromise,” the President said.
Huang expressed confidence that China-Philippines friendship and cooperation “will withstand the test of time.”
“What matters is that we handle them (differences) in a mature and constructive manner. This serves the mutual benefits of our countries and meets the common aspiration of our people,” the envoy said.
For his part, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said China has continued fishing in the West Philippine Sea because the country’s exclusive economic zone remains contested by China and other neighboring countries.
But Esperon assured the public the government has already deployed vessels from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Philippine Coast Guard to enforce fisheries laws within the EEZ.
Meanwhile, a legislator on Saturday expressed outrage over the continued incursions of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, calling it a breach of sovereignty and economic sabotage by a foreign intruder.
“Why would hundreds of ships converge in one spot for months if there is no economic gain for them? I am sure that there is something of high value underneath that they are very much interested in. Something that is very valuable to them and to us,” Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said.
“Their continued presence there indicates that they are stealing from us these valuable resources,” he added.
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