Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism Focuses on Cooperation and Collaboration while Having Frank and Candid Discussions on Issues where the Philippines and China Disagree

14 February 2018 MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano today praised the conclusion of the 2nd meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea between Philippine and Chinese delegations as an important step towards resolving ongoing territorial disputes in a manner consistent with the spirit of friendship.

“This meeting has become an important step towards resolving ongoing disputes on territory, sovereignty, and sovereignty rights in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea, however, this bilateral consultation mechanism is also here to strengthen the momentum of cooperation in matters of common interest such as marine environmental protection, coordination between Coast Guards, and the protection of our fishermen, as well the possibility of joint exploration,” Secretary Cayetano said in a statement.

Delegations from the Philippines and China met on 13 February 2018 for the 2nd Meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM).  Both sides took the opportunity to highlight the exponential improvement in bilateral relations and the many opportunities for growth in various areas of cooperation.

The delegations, led by DFA Undersecretary Enrique A. Manalo and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, also discussed ways to manage and prevent incidents at sea, promote dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, and enhance mutual trust and confidence.

The Philippine side brought up our territorial claims and sovereignty rights issues, and discussed how to manage and prevent incidents on the ground.  Both sides expressed their countries’ respective positions on the ongoing territorial disputes. While there are points of disagreement, both delegations are in agreement that the best way forward is to cooperate and properly manage issues of mutual concern and preserve security and stability in the region.

Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, head of the Chinese delegation, also called on Secretary Cayetano today before flying back to Beijing

Secretary Cayetano said that the BCM serves as a venue for the Philippines and China to manage their differences amicably, and to show the world how disputes can be handled in a peaceful manner, and how cooperation and collaboration can benefit the two countries’ peoples despite a complicated and difficult dispute.

"The Duterte Administration is unwavering in its commitment to protect our country’s territorial claims and maritime entitlements. Let me also say that we are also of the position that ongoing territorial disputes should be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations and the 1982 UNCLOS," said the Secretary.

Pursuant to the strategy of the Duterte administration of “friends to all and enemies to none”, the Secretary said the Philippines engages all countries whether claimant or non-claimant, whether we have a dispute with them or not, and this has led to much mutual trust and confidence and translated into gains in the disputed areas as well as in other areas of cooperation and collaboration.

To mention some positive developments in the South China Sea:

  1. There is access of our fishermen within the areas in dispute.
  1. There are measures in place for all parties to protect the environment and marine ecosystem in the South China Sea.
  1. There is a commitment by China and all parties not to build on uninhabited features in accordance with the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.

"Let me note that our fishermen are back exercising their livelihood in Scarborough Shoal, and overall, the situation in the greater South China Sea has become more stable than in past years," according to Secretary Cayetano.

These warm and friendly relations likewise resulted in tremendous economic benefits for the country, with China lifting the ban on the import of bananas from the Philippines, together with, to date, over $24 Billion worth of assistance, investment, pledges, commercial loans from China, with focus on infrastructure development under the “Build Build Build” program and further increasing economic development in the Philippines.

Secretary Cayetano further stressed that there are ongoing talks and continuous diplomatic actions being undertaken to protect the interests of the Philippines in the South China Sea. "Just because we are not in an open shouting match with China, or arguing in public, doesn’t mean that the issues aren’t being dealt with decisively. On the contrary, we are not only exerting efforts but also getting things done," said the Philippines' top diplomat. END