TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: China is willing to discuss with the Philippines the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea without interference from outsiders, its Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said.
Sun made the statement in a meeting with Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba in Beijing on May 26, 2023.
Mamba himself disclosed this on Saturday during an interview with The Manila Times following the arrival of participants in the first leg of a nationwide peace caravan here in the capital city of Cagayan.
China and the Philippines have conflicting claims over parts of the South China Sea which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea as it falls within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippines has long insisted that disputes be settled through multilateral discussions involving other claimant countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Quoting Sun, Mamba said that China was ready to work with the Philippines to “uphold justice, focus development and deepen cooperation to boost modernization between the two countries.”
Sun said that China and the Philippines are “close neighbors that cannot be moved away” and that “good neighbourliness and friendship is in the common interests of the two countries and two peoples.”
“Sun also welcomed Cagayan province to forge good ties with the Chinese provinces and cities to share experience, learn from each other and promote common development,” said Mamba.
During their meeting, Mamba said he told Sun that Cagayan was willing to become a “gateway and bridge” for exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
He said his visit to China was made on the invitation of the Chinese government.
Mamba was accompanied by several Cagayan mayors and other local government officials during the trip.
Mamba was one of the local chief executives who has been vocal against the establishment of “Edca sites” as provided under the Enhanced Development Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. His province was one of those chosen which, under the agreement, would allow the US to store assets and artillery and use them to defend the Philippines if attacked.
The US has reinforced its alliance with the Philippines, holding the largest “Balikatan” or shoulder-to-shoulder military exercises in the country highlighted by its display of superior firepower, and getting visits from Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 3rd.
Japan, South Korea, and Australia have also offered to hold naval exercises with the Philippines in the disputed waters.