MANILA, April 9 (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have stressed the need for restraint to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the Manila presidential office said on Saturday.

The two leaders held an hour-long telephone summit on Friday, discussing a wide range of topics, including concerns over the Ukraine crisis and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The leaders stressed the need to make every effort to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China Sea by exercising restraint, defusing tensions and working on a mutually acceptable framework of functional cooperation,” the presidential office said in a statement.

Both sides are committed to expanding the space for positive engagements even in the face of disputes, Duterte’s office said.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has nurtured warmer ties with Beijing, putting aside a long-running territorial dispute over the South China Sea in return for billions of dollars in aid, loans and pledges of aid. investment.

The two presidents spoke of the importance of continuing discussions and concluding the code of conduct on the South China Sea.

An international arbitration ruling in The Hague in 2016 invalidated China’s sweeping claims to the waterway, through which an estimated $3 trillion in maritime trade passes each year. The case went to court in Manila.

In March, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against a Chinese coastguard vessel engaging in “short-range maneuvers” that increased the risk of collision in the disputed waterway.

Duterte and Xi renewed their calls for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Ukraine through dialogue and pledged to work together to address the impacts of climate change, the presidential office said.

Duterte, 77, is expected to end his single six-year term in June.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Michael Perry

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