CHINA has offered to conduct joint military exercises with the Philippines.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said on Thursday that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian made the proposal to him during the recent celebration of the 96th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held at a hotel in Mandaluyong City.
Brawner said the AFP will have to thoroughly study the “white papers” submitted by Beijing apparently containing the proposed joint military training with Manila.
“We are actually following the statement of our President when he said that we are friends to all, enemies to none,” he said. “So we will naturally toe the line. We try to establish relations with the armies, with armed forces around the world, as this is one way for us to actually prevent war,” he said.
The offer comes at a time when China and the Philippines are locked in a long-standing territorial dispute involving parts of the South China Sea (SCS).
In January 2013, the Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against China under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). The arbitration concerned the role of historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the SCS, the status of certain maritime features in the SCS, and the legality of certain actions by China in the SCS that the Philippines alleged to violate Unclos.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines on most of its submissions.
Tensions have mounted between the two countries over continued Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
The coast guards of China and the Philippines conducted joint exercises on “search and rescue and combating fire at sea” in January 2020.
The training, described as an “exercise of interoperability,” was carried out during the China Coast Guard’s weeklong port call in Manila.
Coast guard officials of the two countries also discussed “communication protocols, search and rescue, and the possibility of conducting joint exercises on maritime security.”
During the PLA anniversary event, Huang called on the Philippines to “resist external interference” in addressing matters concerning the Indo-Pacific region and to jointly safeguard the “regional peace dividend.”
Considering the “intricate and complex” international and regional situation, “with various risks and challenges emerging,” Huang said Beijing is always willing to work with Manila to ensure “good neighborliness.”
He stressed that countries in the region “must keep abreast with the changing times” while avoiding “Cold-War mentality and ‘bloc’ confrontation.”
“China is willing to work with the Philippines to adhere to independence and good neighborliness, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, properly manage differences through consultation and dialogue, and ensure China-Philippines relations remain healthy and move steadily into the future, so as to write a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” he said.
The ambassador said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and China’s President Xi Jinping had already agreed to handle “maritime issues through friendly consultations.”
“As long as the consensus between our top leaders is implemented in real earnest, we will be able to see new progress in the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, and contribute to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Huang said.
The envoy reiterated that China “advocates promoting cooperation through dialogue, promoting peace through cooperation and handling differences and disputes with peaceful means.”
He said the PLA “is a peace-loving and peace-preserving army. The development and growth of the PLA is tantamount to the development and growth of the forces of peace in the world.”
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