China said its sovereignty and administration over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea “has not and will not change”, and that China and the Philippines should strengthen dialogue and cooperation to make the South China Sea issue a positive factor for enhancing bilateral friendship and cooperation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the remarks in a daily news conference on Nov 22 in response to reports that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will issue an order to ban all fishermen from fishing in the lagoon of the island.
During their meeting in Lima, the capital of Peru, on Nov 19, President Xi Jinping told Duterte that the two countries should stick to friendly cooperation and proper management of differences, while Duterte said the Philippines is willing to handle maritime issues through dialogue and consultation with China.
Geng said: “China has made proper arrangements regarding Filipino fishermen fishing in waters near Huangyan Island.”
Tensions around Huangyan Island, one of China’s islands in the South China Sea, rose in April 2012, when a Philippine military vessel confronted Chinese fishermen who were fishing in the island’s lagoon and were later evacuated with the help of Chinese maritime law enforcement vessels.
Ties between China and the Philippines further worsened when the previous Philippine government unilaterally filed an arbitration case over the South China Sea.
Duterte, who became Philippine president in June and had voiced intentions to talk to China over bilateral maritime disputes, visited China in October, helping to improve bilateral ties.
Chen Qinghong, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the ban to be issued is in line with the two countries’ efforts to improve relations and resolve South China Sea disputes through dialogue and consultation, and it helps improve the environment of the island.
“The ban has nothing to do with sovereignty,” Chen said, adding that the news may be distorted by Western media or some political forces in the Philippines, as the move suggests the country has a legitimate claim to Huangyan Island.
China will not accept such distortion, Chen said.