Manila - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged China to let Filipinos fish in disputed waters in the South China Sea while the two countries discuss ways to resolve a territorial row.
Duterte noted that most fishermen who sail to the disputed areas, particularly Scarborough Shoal near the north-western Philippines, were poor and needed to boost their catch to earn a living.
"I hope the Chinese may find a place in their hearts for the Filipinos. I hope you treat us (as) your brothers and not enemies andtake note of the plight of our citizens," he said in a speech at ceremonies marking National Heroes' Day.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philipines Zhao Jianhua, who attended the event at the Heroes' Cemetrey, said Beijing was open to discussing the possibility of allowing Filipinos fish in Scarborough Shoal.
He added that Beijing was looking forward to holding bilateral talks with the Philippines to discuss the dispute.
"Right now, we need to change our focus from differences to common interests so we can concentrate on cooperation that will benefit our people," he told reporters after the speech.
In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no legal right to claim a large swathe of the South China Sea, in a case brought by the Philippines.
China, which did not participate in the arbitration case, has rejected the court's ruling as "null and void."