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On PH-China friendship day, an unfriendly Chinese comment

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MANILA, Philippines–On the day the Philippines and China were commemorating their 13th Friendship Day, Beijing on Monday denounced Manila and Hanoi for holding “friendly games” on a disputed island in the Spratlys archipelago.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s description of the event as a “clumsy farce” did not sit well with President Benigno Aquino’s spokesperson, who reminded Beijing yesterday of the two countries’ friendly relations.

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“We wish to gladly inform China that we just celebrated yesterday the 13th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day and perhaps, instead of condemning the friendly games between the Philippines and Vietnam, China should focus on engaging the Philippines in friendly initiatives,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

Despite the latest verbal attack, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the government remained hopeful that China would “see the meaning of what we are doing and the good [it would bring], that we would have peace in our minds and in our actions.”

Mr. Aquino was set to deliver a speech last night at the joint celebration of Philippines Independence Day and the 13th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day at the Manila Hotel. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua was also scheduled to speak at the event.

Beijing was irked over the decision by the Philippines and Vietnam to hold joint games by their troops last Sunday. They played volleyball, football and tug-of-war on Southwest Cay Island, which is occupied by Vietnam.

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Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“We’re trying to set an example. We want to show that there can be other approaches to the disputes that can in fact ease the tensions,” said Philippine Navy spokesperson Gerald Fabic.

Coloma downplayed the latest criticism from China, echoing the government’s position that the territorial dispute did not “constitute the totality of Philippine-China relations.”

“And we would still like to maintain the overall cooperation and friendship between the two countries,” he said.

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The Philippines earlier questioned China’s nine-dash line claim to practically the entire South China Sea, before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).

Itlos had given China six months to respond to the Philippine case, even if Beijing has long insisted that it would not participate in the proceedings.

“That is why we have chosen to [take] our case to a tribunal that allows for open discussion of the issues because that is what we have in our favor,” Coloma said.

“We believe that we have truth, reason and justice on our side,” he said.

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TAGS: China, Diplomacy, friendly games, friendship day, Philippines, sea dispute, Vietnam
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