Differences in South China Sea not sum total of Philippines-China relations: Official

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The Philippines’ foreign minister on Saturday said his nation’s differences with China in the South China Sea are not the sum total of relations between the two countries.

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“These differences should not prevent us from seeking ways of managing them effectively, especially with respect to enjoyment of rights of Filipinos, especially fishermen,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said at the start of bilateral talks in Manila with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang.

The Philippines has previously raised diplomatic protests at the presence of Chinese fishing vessels and what it calls China’s “aggressive actions” in the strategic waterway.

Qin said on Saturday China is ready to work with the Philippines to implement a consensus between the two countries and properly resolve differences.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, which sees the passage of about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne annually and is believed to be rich in minerals and oil-and-gas deposits.

A landmark arbitration ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 invalidated China’s claims. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines have competing claims in the waterway.

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