Duterte, Xi call for restraint

As China warns vs. ‘military alliances’ that threaten regional peace

After a recent intrusion of a Chinese navy ship in Philippine waters, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to exert all efforts to maintain peace, security, and stability by exercising restraint, dissipating tensions, and working on a mutually agreeable framework for functional cooperation.

Xi, however, cautioned the Philippines against “military alliances” that could undermine regional efforts to ensure peace and stability despite maritime disputes.

“International developments prove once again that regional security cannot be achieved by strengthening military alliances and China is willing to work with the Philippines and countries in the region,” Xi said, as quoted in a report by the South China Morning Post.

The Chinese leader underscored the need “to keep the leadership of regional security firmly in its own hands and to jointly maintain the hard-won peace and stability in the region.”

Duterte, for his part, said the Philippines would work with China to “properly deal with South China Sea issues.”

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The two leaders also tackled the conflict in Eastern Europe and the COVID-19 pandemic during their hour-long telephone summit on Friday.

In a statement, Malacañan Palace said: “Both leaders acknowledged that even while disputes existed, both sides remained committed to broaden the space for positive engagements which reflected the dynamic and multidimensional relations of the Philippines and China.”

The two leaders also discussed global and regional developments, with both of them reaffirming the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and making a renewed commitment to ensure regional peace, progress, and prosperity.

Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, both leaders acknowledged the importance of making vaccines available to nations that most needed them, adding it was “as crucial to global and regional economic bounce back.”

“The leaders committed to work even more closely to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to explore constructive ways to jumpstart interaction and exchanges through, among others, mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, streamlining health protocols, and resumption of commercial flights,” the Palace statement said.

On Tuesday, Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana disclosed that a Chinese navy vessel was observing the conduct of war games between Filipino and American soldiers in Philippine waters earlier this year.

“What this vessel did was monitor our military exercise with the US navy. It conducted surveillance,” Lorenzana said, adding that this prompted Manila to file a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

“So we protested. They can’t just observe us within our territorial waters,” he added.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese vessel entered Philippine waters “without permission” from January 29 to February 1, 2022, reaching the waters of Palawan’s Cuyo Group of Islands and Apo Island in Mindoro.

Philippine Navy vessel BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) challenged PLAN 792, which claimed that it was exercising innocent passage.

China has ignored a 2016 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration junking its historical claim to the area.

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