The Philippines will not be distracted from its trade focus with China despite growing tensions over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said at the World Economic Forum on East Asia on Thursday.
“Relationships among countries have many dimensions. The territorial dimension cannot be the end of these relationships,” Purisima told delegates during the East Asia Economic Outlook session.
Purisima said despite the territorial dispute, trade relations between the Philippines and China have grown over the past few years.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows the country’s exports to China accounted for 10.7 percent of the Philippines’ total exports in March 2014.
China ranked third in the Philippines’ biggest export destinations for the month, with China-bound shipments valued at $557.42 million.
“Our trade relationship continues to grow. Our tourism continues to improve. Our people-to-people and cultural exchanges continue to grow. I think that’s where we should focus on,” Purisima said.
“We cannot be distracted by one issue or disagreement. We have to have a holistic view of the situation. In this interconnected world, we cannot just be fixated on one aspect.
“Because we are interconnected with each other, therefore, we have to learn to work with each other under international rules,” Purisima said.
The Philippines recently accused China of violating an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea by planning new structures on a disputed reef in the West Philippine Sea.
The government said that any activity by China in the disputed territory may be considered a violation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC), a non-binding confidence-building agreement on maritime conduct signed by China and member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia in November 2002.