China, Philippines tackle
contentious South China Sea issues in friendly dialogue
GUIYANG, China, May 19 (PNA) – China and the Philippines on Friday
engaged in a candid but friendly discussion where officials from the two
countries tackled almost all contentious issues on the South China Sea
”There was no issue that was left untouched, almost. We touched on several
sensitive issues but we didn’t dwell, we don’t impose on the Chinese,”
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said in a media
interview after the 1st Meeting on the China-Philippines Bilateral
Consultation Mechanism on the South China at the New World Hotel here.
”This is the purpose of this bilateral consultative mechanism: to discuss
issues that are contentious while we proceed on the non-contentious issues
in other fields that are making progress,” Sta. Romana, head of the
Philippines delegation to the meeting, added.
Sta. Romana said the Philippines side raised the issues of arbitration,
disputed Spratly islands and the Filipino fishermen’s right to fish in the
”There have been recent incidents in the South China Sea that we raised with
them because it is a concern: the fishing rights, the behavior of fishermen,
the treatment of the Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea and they
clarified their position,” Sta. Romana said.
Sta. Romana described the first bilateral meeting under the renewed
China-Philippines relations as “excellent meeting.”
”Because it was very candid, it was very frank but at the same time, it was
all conducted in a friendly tone,” the Filipino envoy to China said.
”I mean the differences we have with China did not arise in one night,
neither can we solve it in one session,” he added.
Although differences were discussed during the three-hour meeting, Sta.
Romana said the Philippines side and the China delegation headed by Chinese
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, have found ways to discuss maritime
cooperation in the South China Sea.
”So what we are trying to do is to create condition that we will create
mutual trust and confidence and to build on a better foundation so that
eventually we can resolve these issues although it will take sometime,” Sta.
Sta. Romana said the Philippines and China will pursue possible areas of
maritime cooperation in the South China Sea “without prejudice to our
”So this is the significance of this bilateral consultative mechanism that
we can discuss contentious issues, we can discuss sensitive issues but we
can do it in a candid, frank and friendly way. And at the same time, explore
areas of maritime cooperation.
He said the first bilateral meeting since President Rodrigo Duterte revived
the Philippines-China relations was a big step in building a better
foundation for the relations between two countries.
In a joint press statement, Liu and Sta. Romana initialed the Term of
References (TOR) that was reached during the diplomatic consultations
between the two states’ Foreign Ministries in January this year to establish
the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM).
Both sides agreed the BCM should be a platform for confidence-building
measures and for promoting maritime cooperation and maritime security.
The BCM will comprise equivalent officials from the respective foreign
ministries and relevant maritime affairs agencies.
The delegates agreed to hold the BCM once in every six months with the next
meeting to be held in Manila later this year.
The two sides also agreed to address concerns, to handle incidents and
disputes in the South China Sea “in an appropriate manner.”
”Such discussions are consistent with the October 2016 Joint Statement where
both sides reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and
stability, freedom of navigation in, and over-flight above the South China
Sea,” the press statement said.
The two sides agreed to address the territorial and jurisdictional disputes
by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through
friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly
involved on the issue.
It added that disputes will be resolved “in accordance with universally
recognized principles of international law” including the Charter of the
United Nations and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Philippines-China relations has been rejuvenated following President
Duterte’s four-day state visit in Beijing in October last year upon the
invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Last May 14-15, President Duterte returned to China for the first Belt and
Road Forum on International Cooperation. On its sidelines, the two
Presidents held expanded bilateral meeting.
The Philippines-China relations hit a snag after the Philippines filed an
arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in
2013 to contest China’s ‘nine-dash line’ claim on South China Sea.
A month after President Duterte took his oath as President in June last
year, the UN-backed arbitration court released its judgment in favor of the
However, President Duterte decided to temporarily shelve the verdict to
allow resolution of the maritime dispute through peaceful means and