Chinese embassy official stresses need for cooperation amid issues on PH buoy placement

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) – An official of the Chinese Embassy in Manila underscored the need for cooperation and mutual understanding following now quashed reports that Chinese fishermen removed buoys placed by the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea.

Chinese Embassy Counselor Ji Lingpeng said the maritime dispute shouldn’t define the bilateral relations between Beijing and Manila, adding that economic ties between the two countries remain strong.

Ji said both President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping have underscored the importance of diplomacy in resolving issues on the South China Sea during the Philippine leader's visit to Beijing last January.

The PCG last month installed five buoys in the Kalayaan group of islands located within the Philippines’ 220 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, on top of an existing five which were deployed in May 2022.

READ: PCG installs 5 sovereign markers in ‘critical areas’ in WPS

Beijing responded by deploying buoy vessels to the West Philippine Sea. China's state media also reported that Chinese fishermen “fished out” all of the buoys from Philippine waters.

The PCG denied this claim and said that all 10 buoys were in their designated locations.

“President Xi Jinping and he [Marcos] has reached a consensus to settle the maritime problems in a friendlier way with consultations and exchanges. The South China Sea issue is only a very small part of our bilateral relations. We have a lot of cooperation to enhance,” Ji said.

“I don’t think there’s any problems right now, but we should focus on mutual understanding," he added.

Asked by the media if the Chinese embassy would issue a new statement on the PCG’s denial of the report on the removal of buoys, Ji said this: “You’ve asked very sensitive questions.”

Meanwhile, Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies, said countries with conflicting claims in the South China Sea should coordinate and have consultations on the placement of buoys

He said while it is the Philippines’ right to deploy buoys in its territory, the PCG’s message that they are considered as markers of sovereignty put the act in a different light.

“Sinunod natin yung international practice. Ang problema kasi yung political message na dineliver natin. Kasi nagdagdag tayo ng message na gagawin natin itong mga boya na sovereignty marker. Ayan tuloy, nagkaroon ng reactions from other neighbors,” Banlaoi said.

[Translation: We followed international practice. The problem is that we delivered a political message because we said that these were sovereignty markers. Now, our neighbors have reacted.]

“Pag nagkaroon ng war of the buoys in the West Philippine Sea, sa halip na maging guide siya for safety of navigation, baka maging cause pa siya ng accidents and unintended violent encounters at sea,” he added.

[Translation: If a war of the buoys in the West Philippine Sea takes place, instead of serving as navigational guides, these buoys will instead cause accidents and unintended violent encounters at sea.]