China on Friday announced that it has reached a “consensus” with the Philippines on energy projects in South China Sea.

“China and the Philippines have reached a consensus on joint development of energy projects in the South China Sea and to build a consultation mechanism,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said, according to state-run CGTN network.

The statement from Beijing came after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday lifted a moratorium on the South China Sea exploration projects.

The moratorium was imposed in 2014 due to a territorial dispute with Beijing, which Manila won at an international tribunal in 2016. The ruling had rejected China’s claims to the energy-rich waters.

“China hopes that the two sides can meet each other halfway and promote positive progress in the joint development of energy in the South China Sea,” Zhao added.

The decision taken by Duterte will pave the way for three projects to resume and the Philippines can award more service contracts.

Earlier in September, Duterte in his address to the UN General Assembly stood with the 2016 ruling, saying “we firmly reject attempts to undermine it.”

China had last year offered the Philippines a joint energy venture in the contested South China Sea “if it sets aside the international arbitral ruling.”

Beijing slams Pompeo

Slamming the US for blaming China for the worst COVID-19 situation in the country, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “Since [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo is so concerned about [COVID-19] virus origins, can the US give the world a satisfactory explanation about the Fort Detrick lab, e-cigarette diseases and other issues of long-standing global concerns.”

“The US government’s performance in handling the epidemic is very clear for the US public and the world; they should know the only way to save American lives and beat the virus is to respect science and facts,” Chinese daily Global Times quoted Zhao as saying.

The US and her allies have been pushing for a probe into the origins of COVID-19 which has killed over 1.1 million people since it was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.

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