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Xi Jinping: China, Philippines must stick to 'friendly consultations' on South China Sea issue

The Philippines and China should stick to "friendly consultations" when dealing with issues on the South China Sea, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said.

Xi had a bilateral talk with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday afternoon.

"On the South China Sea, the two sides must stick to friendly consultation and handle differences and disputes properly," Xi said in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy.

"As two developing countries in Asia, China and the Philippines need to keep strategic independence, uphold peace, openness and inclusiveness, and stay the course of regional cooperation," he added.

Manila and Beijing should work together "to reject unilateralism and acts of bullying, defend fairness and justice, and safeguard peace and stability in the region," according to Xi.

To recall, the Philippines challenged China in 2013 over its massive claims in the resource-rich region.

A Hague-based tribunal invalidated Beijing’s territorial claims, however, the latter refused to recognize the ruling and continued its activities to make a stronger presence in the region.

In September, reports said at least 405 diplomatic protests had been lodged over China's aggression in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos, for his part, said the international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) must be upheld when dealing with territorial issues.

Marcos, who is set to have a state visit to China early next year, said in the bilateral meeting that "relations between the two countries should not be defined by maritime issues and that both sides may further enhance communication in this regard."

The Philippine leader also said the country is ready to engage in active consultations with China in order to find ways to advance the joint exploration of maritime oil and gas resources.

'Accommodate concerns'

Meanwhile, Xi also underscored China’s readiness to maintain its regular communication with the Philippines and "to continue to accommodate its concerns," noting that it views its relations with the Philippines from a strategic height.

Xi said the two countries need to deepen the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” program, ensure the success of the Davao-Samal Bridge project, explore cooperation on “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, and strengthen cooperation on clean energy, education, and public health.

He added that China is willing to import more quality agricultural and sideline products from the Philippines.

"The two sides need to take more concrete steps to increase people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cement public support for China-Philippines friendship," Xi said.

"China will work with the Philippines to carry forward their friendship and cooperation, commit to national development and rejuvenation, and write a new chapter in China-Philippines friendship," he added. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News