Beijing, Jan 5 (EFE).- The presidents of China and the Philippines expressed their willingness to resume negotiations on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea and to address maritime differences peacefully.
“China is willing to properly handle maritime issues with the Philippines side through friendly consultation, and restart negotiations on oil and gas exploration,” Xi Jinping said at a meeting with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Beijing on Wednesday, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The Philippine leader is on a three-day official visit to China.
To address the situation, the two sides decided to establish a direct communication mechanism between the Chinese foreign ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs and the Philippines ministry of foreign affairs’ Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office, according to a joint statement released by the former on Thursday.
Talks between China and the Philippines on joint exploration in the South China Sea were suspended in June last year when then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered their termination due to unconstitutional constraints.
China and the Philippines are engaged in a territorial conflict over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims these islands as its own for so-called historical reasons despite some being less than 200 miles from the Philippines’ western coast, a limit that the UN established as the sovereign maritime border between states in a convention to which China acceded in 1996.
The 14 bilateral agreements signed after the meeting also include plans to expand cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, tourism and culture, CCTV reported.
Xi pledged broad cooperation in areas ranging from supporting Chinese investment in the Philippines to helping develop island villages, agricultural technology, basic education, meteorology and space as well as vaccines.
The Philippine president also met outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee Li Zhanshu on Wednesday.
Marcos’s visit occurs a few days before China’s borders reopen on Jan. 8 after being closed for nearly three years under the strict “zero Covid’ policy that was in place until December. EFE