MANILA - The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam will meet in Manila on Dec. 12 to discuss their territorial dispute in the South China Sea, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday.
Del Rosario said the vice-ministerial level meeting "is a constructive and practical approach in trying to settle the disputes among the four of us" over the Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
"I think it's one of the viable options to move the issue forward in terms of a peaceful resolution," del Rosario said.
"To me, a good scenario is whether we can, on a multilateral basis among the four of us, discuss issues that confront the four claimants. If we can, for example, discuss the delimitation solutions to areas where we have disputes with each other, that certainly would be a good result to that initiative," he said.
Del Rosario said Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam agreed to the Philippine initiative Tuesday as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia summits came to a close in Cambodia.
He added he does not believe the talks would aggravate tension with China.
He also rejected suggestions the meeting is to be "a show of strength," saying that while President Benigno Aquino acknowledges bilateral consultation could be a tool toward resolution, the fact there are many claimants also requires a multilateral approach.
A senior Philippine diplomat, who requested anonymity, had earlier said the meeting is aimed at hammering out "a common position, a blueprint on how to deal with China on the dispute," adding it would be "easier to forge an ASEAN position" if the four claimants have a common position on the issue themselves.
The Philippines is also involved in a territorial dispute with China at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, north of the Spratlys.
China wants to deal with the various issues bilaterally.
The ASEAN members, in addition to the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.