MANILA–Chinese naval goodwill visits could help reduce tensions in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS), a Defense official said.
“Goodwill visits are excellent confidence building measures which will go a long way in fostering good relations between our peoples and reduce tensions in the West Philippine Sea,” said Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong.
Three Chinese warships are docked at Sasa Wharf in Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, for a three-day goodwill visit.
The visiting Chinese ships are the guided-missile destroyer Chang Chun (DDG-150), guided-missile frigate Jin Zhou (FFG-532) and Type 903 replenishment ship Chao Hu (890).
“If they express their intent to send more vessels on a goodwill visit to the Philippines in the future, we are ready to welcome them,” Andolong said.
Due to the congestion of various ports in Manila, the Chinese decided instead to dock at Sasa Wharf.
“The ports of Manila are congested at this time and it would have been difficult to accommodate their vessels this weekend,” Andolong said.
Allowing Chinese ships to visit the country does not mean that the country is veering away from the United States, a long-standing ally of the Philippines, but merely expanding horizons, Andolong said.
“It is also part of the Philippine government’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy,” he said.
Lt. Jetmark Marcos, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao public affairs office chief, earlier said the visit is aimed at expanding communication, promoting cooperation and improving friendship of the Philippine Navy and PLA Navy.
Marcos said the flotilla is commanded by Rear Admiral Shen Hao, the Deputy Commander of the East Sea Fleet deputy commander and head of Navy Task Group 150