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PH, China to use diplomacy to address maritime issues
Published on: Sunday, March 26, 2023
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PH, China to use diplomacy to address maritime issues
Theresa Lazaro (left) with China’s Vice FM Sun Weidong during the 7th Bilateral Consultations Mechanism in Manila.
MANILA: The Philippines and China have agreed to manage their differences and handle emergencies on the South China Sea (SCS) through “friendly consultations,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement, the DFA said both sides explored ways to advance maritime cooperation “directed at confidence-building and managing tensions” during the 7th Bilateral Consultations Mechanism (BCM) in Manila.

“During the BCM, the Philippines and China reaffirmed their adherence to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and their commitment to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” it said.

“Both sides recognised their obligations under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and stressed their resolve to finalise an effective and substantive Code of Conduct.”

The two sides also discussed their respective positions on the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, alongside the different incidents at sea monitored since 2021.

DFA Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro, who led the Philippine delegation, said Manila “looks forward to a time that the news would no longer report on Philippines-China maritime incidents, but instead focus on mutually beneficial endeavors.”

“I cannot overemphasise that this should start with restraint from aggressive acts,” she said during the BCM.

In a separate statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the meeting resulted in more than 10 items of consensus and outcomes.

The two sides, it said, agreed to further leverage the role of the BCM and “promote practical cooperation in areas such as diplomacy, defense, coast guard, oil and gas development, fisheries, maritime affairs, maritime search and rescue, and marine scientific research and environmental protection.”

Among the subjects discussed were revisiting the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing the Joint Coast Guard Committee and the convening of the Annual Defense Security.

New initiatives were also floated, including training and capacity building on aquaculture and marine environment cooperation.

In addition, the two sides agreed to convene the Joint Committee on Fisheries “at an early date.”

The BCM is a confidence-building measure that tackles maritime issues, including the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, marine environmental protection, and fisheries cooperation, among others.

The last BCM was held in 2021. 

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