By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
3:28 am | Monday, June 10th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—Their territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) should not stop the Philippines and China from celebrating the 38th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations, Malacañang said Sunday.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said relations between the two countries were multifaceted and the territorial dispute over parts of the West Philippine Sea was just one facet.
After all, there were other facets of this relationship that “we continue to develop and that we continue to move forward on,” Valte said on state-run radio dzRB.
“So let’s let the maritime disputes not be the whole of our relationship but, rather, just a part of it. And, again, given the close ties that we have, then that’s worth something to look at all the other facets and check and see if we can move forward on those fronts,” she said.
The Philippines and China opened diplomatic relations on June 9, 1975.
Since then, the relations have reached “unprecedented levels” in security and regional cooperation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism and cultural exchanges, according to the Philippine Embassy in China.
In April 2005, then Chinese President Hu Jintao, on a state visit to Manila, and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo described the relations between the two countries as the “golden age of partnership.”
The relations hit a low when Philippine and Chinese ships faced off at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in April last year. The Philippine ships withdrew as both parties agreed on, but three Chinese patrol vessels remained at the shoal.
In May, defense officials protested the presence of two Chinese patrol vessels and a frigate near Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratlys.
The Philippines brought its dispute with China over Panatag Shoal to the United Nations for arbitration in January.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has been pushing for a code of conduct that would replace the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a 2002 nonaggression pact that has failed to stop clashes in the West Philippine Sea.
China has refused to talk with Asean on the matter, arguing that the time was not ripe yet.
The West Philippine Sea is being claimed whole by China and in parts by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan.
Malacañang reiterated its policy against deploying ships to assert the country’s ownership of islands threatened by the presence of Chinese vessels.
“You have to remember that there are many symbols of ownership, not the least what we have been doing,” Valte said.
She said the Aquino administration had a policy of avoiding responding to provocation in the West Philippine Sea.
Valte also said there was no proposal to build a penal colony in the Spratlys.