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Huang: Both PH, China need to stop 'provocative action in disputed area'

Both the Philippine and Chinese sides should refrain from taking any provocative action in the disputed waters, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said on Friday.

In a news conference, Huang was asked for his message to the Philippine Coast Guard which reported that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel pointed military-grade lasers at the crew of BRP Malapascua in the Ayungin Shoal area on February 3.

"The China coast guard has also communicated with the Philippine Coast Guard on this instance," Huang said.

"I think that first of all both sides should exercise restraint and refrain from taking any unilateral and provocative action. At the end of the day, that water is a disputed area," he added.

Asked to comment about the temporary blindness suffered by some PCG crew, Huang said, "I was very saddened to hear that."

"But as I said those are not military grade lasers which does not inflict damage of any either personnel or any goods," Huang said.

Huang held a news conference hours after the Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, accused China of destabilizing peace and security in the West Philippine Sea after the laser-pointing incident.

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry has said that China had sovereignty in the waters around the Ayungin Shoal, where the BRP Malapascua was en route to resupply Filipino forces in the area.

He added that the lasers were meant for navigation safety and to guide the Philippine vessel.

The Ayungin Shoal area is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016. 

Members of the PCG suffered temporary blindness due to the laser-pointing incident.

Huang also showed photos of the lasers similar to the one used by the China coast guard saying that they are not military grade lasers that intend to harm any personnel.

“I was very saddened to hear that but as I said those are not military grade lasers which do not inflict damage to any either personnel or any goods,” he said.

At a televised public briefing, DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza called on Beijing to restrain from this kind of actions.

"No less than the President has called attention [and expressed] serious concern about the increasing frequency and intensity of actions that are happening in West Philippine Sea," Daza said.

"We are calling on China to desist and restrain from this action kasi hindi lang ho ito [because it is not only] damaging, dangerous...  it is also destabilizing in terms of stability and peace in the region," she added. 

Huang said Chinese and Philippine officials have been holding discussions to “manage differences” in order to prevent maritime tension.

“Actually, Chinese authorities have been talking to authorities of the Philippines on how to manage differences and how to prevent such instances [from] happening again,” he said in a media briefing.

He said there was also a “lack of communication” during the incident that led to “misunderstanding.”

“[There is a] lack of communication [that] leads to lack of misunderstanding. And misunderstanding leads to misjudgment and [this cause] some kind of friction,” he said.

“We do hope that in the future we will be working together to prevent such instances from happening again,” he added. —NB, GMA Integrated News