By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines and China reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability, freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), freedom of international commerce and other peaceful uses of the sea.
Both countries also agreed to address 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 concerned, 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 Seas.
This declaration was issued by both parties during the Second Meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea hosted by Manila Tuesday.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippines and China had a frank, cordial exchange of views on issues of concern on the South China Sea.
“With the objective of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region, both sides discussed ways to manage and prevent incidents at sea, promote dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, and enhance mutual trust and confidence,” the DFA said in a statement issued after the meeting. “Both sides had a positive, fruitful and productive meeting.”
During the meeting, Manila and Beijing agreed to continue discussions on confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence and to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.
They also reiterated their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety, and to begin negotiations on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea early next month, as agreed at the 20th ASEAN-China Summit on November 13, 2017 in Manila.
Likewise, both sides also had productive exchange of views on ways to strengthen cooperation in areas such as marine environmental protection, fisheries, marine scientific research, and oil and gas, without prejudice to their respective positions on sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.
Finally, the DFA said there were intensive discussions on mutually beneficial joint initiatives and consensus on the convening of technical working groups in the areas of fisheries, oil and gas, marine scientific research, and marine environmental protection, and political security, in the framework of the BCM. The technical working groups identified a number of possible cooperative initiatives.
DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo led the Philippine delegation while Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou headed the Chinese side.
The DFA said the third meeting of the BCM will be held in China in the second half of 2018 at a mutually convenient date.