Malacañang on Sunday denied relations between the Philippines and China, strained by recent territorial disputes, are at an all-time low.
In a radio interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the Philippines has a “multilevel relationship” with China and that the government isn’t talking to China exclusively about the row in the West Philippine Sea.
“You know, our relationship with our neighbor is multifaceted,” Valte said.
The Philippines will continue to work on the “different facets” despite the tension developing in the West Philippine Sea over the presence of Chinese ships in what Philippine officials consider an intrusion.
“So let’s let the maritime disputes not be the whole of our relationship but, rather, just a part of it,” she said.
“And, again, given the close ties that we have, then that’s worth something to look at all the other facets and check and see if we can move forward on those fronts,” Valte added.
Valte said the Philippine government will continue to pursue a peaceful resolution of the row in the West Philippine Sea and will “refrain from doing anything” that will cause a flaring anew of tensions.
“You have to remember that there are many symbols of ownership, not the least what we have been doing. And, again, allow us to reiterate that we have taken a deliberate policy of avoiding or responding to any provocative action or statement that may be presented to us in the course of this dispute,” Valte added.
The Philippines and China are claiming ownership of other islands, reefs and atolls in the Spratlys chain in the middle of the West Philippine Sea. So are Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The Spratlys are believed to be sitting on vast deposits of oil and gas. The West Philippine Sea also has rich fishing grounds and shipping routes where half of the world’s cargo passes.