The presence of Chinese vessels off Pag-asa (Thitu) Island should not cause alarm, China’s ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua said on Thursday.
Zhao said Beijing is committed to the peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“We are enhancing our respective relations with all the claimant states including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and we’re even exporting submarine missiles to some of the claimant states,” Zhao said in a news conference after the turn over of the firearms given by China to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list earlier claimed that four Chinese vessels had been harassing Filipino fishermen at the sandbars of Pag-asa Island.
But Jhao clarified that the presence of these ships is “natural.”
“Ten countries agreed in the Code of Conduct that (there will be) no reclamation or no rehabilitation or habitation of the uninhabited maritime features and I think both China and the Philippines would adhere strictly to (the CoC),” Jhao said, referring to the code signed by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China.
“You may see some presence of Chinese ships or presence of Filipino ships but that’s a part, we say that overlapping or disputed area, so, it’s quite natural for you to see some boats, fishing boats, they are carrying their daily fishing [and]you don’t have to be alarmed and both Chinese and Filipino side have a clear understanding of what they are doing,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said there are Chinese and Filipino ships in the vicinity of the island and that the presence of Chinese vessels does not mean “that the ships are doing illegal things or harassing other people.”
The Defense chief said the country has been following the CoC.
“Everybody is observing it so sightings of ships once in a while is not uncommon,” Lorenzana said.
Jhao, meanwhile, said Beijing has been committed in coming up with a peaceful solution resolving any forms of disputes with Manila over the contested territories and said their country has been “sincere” in seeking solutions to the disputes.
“We do have disputes but we have to put in a proper context. I said repeatedly earlier [that]it only constitute one percent of our bilateral relationship so we need to look at the bigger picture and focus on friendship and cooperation,” he said.
“But in the meantime, we need to be sincere and to be candid in exchange of views, in seeking solution that is peaceful and that is acceptable to both sides,” Jhao added.