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Region flies the flag for managing its own affairs: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2018-09-04 21:23
A photo of Chinese PLA navy fleet taken in April 2018. [Photo/VCG]

In a sign that Sino-Philippine relations are now resilient enough to withstand any unexpected incident, on Monday, the Philippine navy extricated one of its largest warships from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea where it ran aground last week.

There had been speculation that Manila was repeating an old trick and the BRP Gregorio del Pilar had been deliberately stranded on Half Moon Shoal, which China calls Banyue Jiao, as a Philippine navy vessel was deliberately grounded on Ren'ai Jiao in 1999, in an attempt to claim the sovereignty rights over the reef and its surrounding waters. Nearly 20 years have passed and the Philippines has yet to tow away the rusty ship, which it has been using as a military outpost.

Since then the Sino-Philippine relationship has been on something of a roller-coaster ride, hitting its nadir when the administration of Benigno Aquino III, encouraged by the United States, took a confrontational stance toward Beijing, and only coming back to the normal track after President Rodrigo Duterte took steps to answer Beijing's call to reset the strained ties after he took office in 2016.

As part of the two sides' efforts to build trust, they reached a consensus to maintain a "sound and stable" situation in the South China Sea. That is why Philippine defense officials notified their Chinese counterparts immediately after the accidental grounding of the frigate to avoid any misunderstanding, and why, in a show of goodwill, the Chinese Navy offered to help with its recovery.

China and other regional countries have been working together to maintain peace and security in the South China Sea, and the swift and amicable end to the incident has not allowed it to be played up by other countries seeking to drive a wedge between them.

By continually enhancing mutual trust and seeking to peacefully resolve their territorial disputes, countries in the region have turned a cold shoulder to those trying to stir up trouble in the waters.

At the end of June, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China agreed to move forward with negotiations on the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea based on the framework they had agreed.

By handling this unexpected incident in a prompt and respectful way, the Philippines has shown that countries in the region can manage their differences, build trust, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

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