President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have expressed hope for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Malacañang said.

This was after Duterte and Xi, in a telesummit, admitted that they were “deeply concerned" about the conflict, the Office of the President (OP) said in a press statement issued late Friday night.

“President Duterte and President Xi expressed deep concern over developments in other parts of the world, including in Ukraine. The two Presidents renewed the call for a peaceful resolution of the situation through dialogue in accordance with international law,” the Palace said.

Duterte and Xi held a virtual meeting in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and amid their worry over a potential spillover of the war into Asia, including the Philippines and China.

On March 31, Duterte maintained his neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine crisis but warned that China “would not sit idly” in the event Moscow resorts to nuclear war.

The Philippines is one of the countries that voted in favor of a resolution removing Russia from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

It has also expressed readiness to accept Ukrainian refugees amid the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in the European state.

The Russian offensive, launched on February 24, has displaced more than 10 million people, based on data from the UN.

About 4.2 million of the displaced individuals have fled Ukraine’s borders.

The UN also reported that at least 1,417 individuals were killed, while 2,038 have been injured in Ukraine as of April 3.

Maintaining peace in South China Sea

Meanwhile, Duterte and Xi also discussed the long-standing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea (SCS).

Duterte and Xi, Malacañang said, agreed to settle disputes diplomatically and maintain peace and order in the strategic waters.

“The leaders stressed the need to exert all efforts to maintain peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea by exercising restraint, dissipating tensions, and working on a mutually agreeable framework for functional cooperation,” the Palace said.

On Tuesday, Duterte reassured China of its good ties with the Philippines, saying the two countries need not quarrel because of their overlapping claims in the SCS.

The OP echoed Duterte’s recent statement, noting the two leaders’ commitment to seek “positive engagements” to settle the maritime disputes.

“Both leaders acknowledged that even while disputes existed, both sides remained committed to broaden the space for positive engagements, which reflected the dynamic and multidimensional relations of the Philippines and China,” Malacañang said.

It added that Duterte and Xi both emphasized the importance of continuing discussions and concluding the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

“Both leaders reaffirmed the centrality of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and renewed the commitment to bring peace, progress, and prosperity in the region,” the Palace said.

‘Greater space for partnership, cooperation’

Duterte and Xi also acknowledged the improvement in Manila and Beijing’s relations under the Philippine president’s watch.

“The leaders took stock of and reviewed Philippines and China ties over the last six years and described the trajectory of relations as one that is positive and created greater space for partnership and cooperation,” the OP said.

Malacañang said the two leaders, recognizing the gains of the Philippines and China’s economic and infrastructure cooperation, agreed to further enhance two-way trade and investments, as well as continue partnership for the Duterte government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

“The leaders also stressed the need to open up access to goods and services and work for a balance of trade that would reflect a healthy state of economic partnership,” it added.

Fighting Covid-19 together

The OP said Duterte and Xi acknowledged the importance of mutual support to defeat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

The two underscored the need to make vaccines available to nations with low supply to ensure global and regional economic recovery, it said.

“The leaders committed to work even more closely to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and agreed to explore constructive ways to jumpstart interaction and exchanges through, among others, mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, streamlining health protocols, and resumption of commercial flights,” it said.

Other global, regional developments

Duterte and Xi discussed other global and regional issues, including the need to address climate change, the Palace said.

“President Duterte and President Xi also agreed on the need for both the Philippines and China to work closely together to address the impacts of climate change and to ensure that the voice of the developing world will be heard in all relevant climate change fora,” it said.

The two leaders, the OP said, also considered the elevation of Philippines-China bilateral relations into a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation as a “milestone achievement that demonstrated the commitment of the Philippines and China to continue building on the gains of the previous years towards the future.”

Malacañang described the hour-long telesummit as “open, warm, and positive.”

Joining Duterte at the virtual summit were Climate Change Commission vice chairperson Secretary Robert Borje, Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Myca Magnolia Fischer of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of Asian and Pacific Affairs. (PNA)