Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Xi Jinping of China both highlighted the importance of moderation in the South China Sea, according to a statement released by Manila’s presidential office on Saturday.

On Friday, the two presidents conducted a one-hour phone conference to address a wide variety of issues, including the Ukraine crisis and COVID-19 pandemic responses.

“The leaders emphasized the importance of showing caution, dissipating tensions, and working on a mutually accepted framework for functional collaboration to safeguard peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea,” the presidential office said in a statement.

Even if there were disagreements, both parties were dedicated to expanding the space for good dialogues, according to Duterte’s office.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has worked to improve relations with China, settling a long-standing territorial dispute over the South China Sea in exchange for billions of dollars in aid, loans, and investment commitments.

The two presidents emphasized the need of continuing discussions and finalizing the South China Sea code of conduct.
In 2016, an international arbitration judgement in the Hague invalidated China’s broad claims over the canal, which sees nearly $3 trillion in ship-borne trade pass through each year. Manila brought the case to the tribunal.

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest in March after a Chinese Coast Guard vessel engaged in “close distance maneuvering” in the disputed waterway, increasing the risk of collision.

According to the presidential administration, Duterte and Xi repeated their demands for a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine through discussion and agreed to work together to combat the effects of climate change.
In June, Duterte, 77, will complete his single six-year tenure.

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