MANILA: The Philippines has accepted an invitation from China to attend the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese navy, amid a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana told Channel NewsAsia the Philippines is sending a ship to the Chinese event in April this year in what he believes will be a historic first.

Lorenzana said he was informed of the Philippines Navy initiative to send a vessel “upon the invitation of the PLA Navy”.

Analyst Lucio Pitlo III, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, said the move signalled the Philippines’ openness to engage China even in the security domain, despite what he called the “threat perception of Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea”.

Many Filipinos prefer calling the Philippines’ claim on the larger South China Sea – other territories of which are also claimed by other states – as the West Philippines Sea.

“It also suggests that the country is recognising and learning from the experience of other Southeast Asian states like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, which had earlier engaged China in the security field through purchase of Chinese military assets, holding joint exercises with China, hosting goodwill visits of PLA Navy and attending China-organised security forums such as the Xiangshan Forum,” Pitlo added.