Philippine and Chinese officials held talks on Friday and agreed to use dialogue to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, marking the resumption of the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) between the country and its Asian neighbor.
In a statement on Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said both sides had “friendly and candid exchanges” on the general situation and “specific issues of concern” in the contested waters.
“There was mutual recognition of the importance of dialogue in easing tensions and understanding each country’s position and intentions in the area. Both sides acknowledged the importance of addressing differences in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality to pave the way for practical cooperation and initiatives,” the statement said.
The country also reiterated its long-standing call for full respect and adherence to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its “authoritative interpretation and application – the final and binding 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award.”
The virtual meeting came a month after the Philippine government started firing off protests against Chinese presence within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as well as its annual fishing ban that encroaches on Philippine waters.
Both sides reiterated the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and their commitment to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The West Philippine Sea is also known as the South China Sea.
Manila then stressed the importance of other complementary bilateral and multilateral platforms in maintaining regional peace and stability such as the Asean-China Dialogue Relations, the Asean Regional Forum, and the East Asia Summit.
The two nations also tackled common issues and possible areas of cooperation on fisheries, and marine environmental protection/marine scientific research.
Established in 2016, the BCM serves as a confidence-building process for both sides to manage and address differences, promote practical maritime cooperation and environmental protection, and enhance mutual trust.
DFA Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and Asean Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao led their delegations.
The Philippine delegation included officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Security Council, Department of National Defense, Philippine Coast Guard, DOJ, and other key agencies. SOVEREIGNPH