By Genalyn Kabiling
BOAO, China – In a bid to turn the South China Sea into a “sea of cooperation and friendship,” Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed a joint exploration of the waterway between the China and the Philippines “at an appropriate time.”
The Chinese leader made the proposal during his meeting with President DuterteTuesday elevating relations between the Philippines and China.
“China supports the Philippine government in exploring development path in line with its own conditions,” Xi said as quoted by the Xinhua News Agency.
“We should continue to properly handle South China Sea issue and discuss joint exploration, development and exploration at an appropriate time, thus making the waters a sea of cooperation and friendship,” he added
President Duterte, for his part, assured that the Philippines isready to work with China to keep peace and stability in the South China Sea through bilateral communication, consultation, and boost cooperation.
He expressed his gratitude to China for its support in the country’s economic development as well as improving the nation’s capability to fight terrorism and other transnational crimes. He said the two countries could do more to increase military and defense cooperation to combat common security threats.
New chapter in PH-China relations
The two countries earlier agreed to jointly explore resources in the South China Sea despite a lingering territorial dispute. Two areas have already been identified as possible areas of joint exploration.
China, which claims most territories in the South China Sea, has stepped up reclamation works on the area that have drawn protest from claimant nations, including the Philippines.
President Xi acknowledged that the two countries have taken “two steps upward” in the bilateral relations in the past two years, and should keep close communication and strengthen strategic steering of the ties.
“A new chapter has opened in the bilateral ties since President Duterte took office,” he said.
“The task of this year shall be upgrading the relationship,” he added.
Xi also agreed to strengthen China’s security cooperation with the Philippines,expressing support in the fight against terrorism and narcotics trade.
China is also ready to work with the Philippines to pursue common development and manage differences “so that the bilateral ties will keep to the right direction and stay healthy and stable.”
Xi also suggested that the two nations should align their development strategies and cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative and other areas of mutual benefits.
After the bilateral meeting, the two leaders witnessed the signing of several bilateral cooperation accords on labor, economic cooperation and infrastructure development.