CHINA seeks to resolve differences with the Philippines over maritime claims, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said on Monday, and maintain good overall bilateral relations.    

“We are neighbors that cannot be moved away and have every reason to live together peacefully,” he said during the Chinese Embassy’s celebration of its 73rd National Day via Zoom.

Mr. Huang said it was necessary to properly handle differences to remove interference from China-Philippine relations.

“We should put our differences in a proper place and seek peaceful solutions through friendly consultations, so that our overall relations will not be affected.”

On Friday while on an official trip to the United States, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said China is “claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines,” referring to the West Philippine Sea.

“I think it’s no surprise to anyone that the Philippines has some of these conflicts with the People’s Republic of China, and the position that the Philippines takes is that we have no territorial conflict with China. What we have is China claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines,” he said.

“We have also made it very clear to our friends in Beijing that this is the way we feel about it,” he added.

China has ignored a 2016 United Nations-backed arbitral award that voided its claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines.

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.

Mr. Marcos has said that he is open to any peaceful approach that will resolve the disagreement in the disputed sea, noting that the differences in maritime claims should not be the defining element to the relationship between Beijing and Manila.

Both countries should focus on the steady growth of their cooperation, Mr. Huang said, especially in four key areas: agriculture, infrastructure, energy and people-to-people exchanges.

“In a few week’s time, the CPC (Communist Party of China) will host that 20th National Congress in Beijing. The conference will outline the two steps strategic arrangements for building China into a great modern socialist country and map out the strategic tasks and major measures for the next five years,” he said.

“This will not only open a new chapter in China, but also provide new opportunities for the development of China-Philippine relations,” he added. “I have full confidence in the prospects of China and China-Philippines relations.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan