China Thursday called on the Philippines to send clear and consistent messages and take concrete measures to seek solutions to the standoff between the two countries in the South China Sea.
"We have noticed the concerns of the Philippines on relations with China. We hope to see its practical steps to create an essential atmosphere and environment for bilateral cooperation," Hong Lei, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters Thursday.
On Wednesday, Manila announced that it had designated two special envoys to China to seek more investment and tourists and promote mutual ties.
On the same day, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said he is looking to expand economic relations with China despite a diplomatic standoff in waters off Huangyan Island.
"China is very important to our country and we are obviously looking forward to a positive relationship with it," del Rosario was quoted as saying by Manila-based newspaper Business World. Meanwhile, he reiterated that the government will stand firm on its claim over the island.
Hong called for clear and consistent messages which would be conducive to solemn and sincere dialogues between the two sides.
"Although the atmosphere has eased and the standoff is nearly at an end, the clashes in the South China Sea will not disappear. China has no time to feel relaxed," Du Jifeng, a researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Chen Qinghong, an expert on Asia-Pacific strategy at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, echoed the view.
"It's clear that Manila hasn't changed its claims over the island. China needs to continue its law enforcement patrolling in the waters," Chen said.
On Wednesday, China began an annual fishing ban in the South China Sea that lasts until August 1.
Philippine fishery authorities also announced Wednesday a similar fishing ban.
Currently, calls to improve ties from Philippine traders are increasing as their business saw a decline due to the fallout from the worsening relations.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) revealed that the losses totaled at least $33.12 million as their bananas were left rotting in Chinese ports since China imposed restrictions over two months ago, Manila Bulletin Reported on Tuesday.
On May 8, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China issued a notice on its website, urging the work staff to intensify quarantine of fruits from the Philippines after several harmful bacteria and pests were detected from its pineapples or bananas by customs officers from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Shandong.
Five days later, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared that he would explore new markets for the country's banana growers.
However, Stephen A. Antig, executive director of PBGEA, said finding new markets was too difficult. Due to restrictions aimed at protecting its own banana industry, 10 years of efforts to penetrate Australia, another major market, turned out to be in vain, he said.
China accounts for one-fourth of the total Philippine banana market. Before tensions started in March, about 1.2 million boxes were shipped weekly to China at a price of about $4 per box, according to Antig.
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