Philippines, China open S. China Sea communication line

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 13 2017 02:14 PM

China Coast Guard vessels patrol past Philippine fishing boats at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine and Chinese coast guards on Monday agreed to establish a communication line that would facilitate friendly dealings in the disputed South China Sea.

In a high-level security meeting, the two sides agreed to create the Hotline Communication Mechanism.

The Chinese transport ministry, through its Maritime Rescue Coordinating Council, offered to donate radio and video conferencing equipment necessary for 24/7 communication between the counterpart agencies.

The development was an offshoot of maritime exercises that key Philippine Coast Guard officials attended in Zhanjiang, China from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.

The Philippines and China were previously involved in a string of skirmishes in the South China Sea, including a tense standoff at the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, which led Manila to file a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration last year ruled in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China's sweeping claims to the resource-rich waters. Beijing, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Tensions between the 2 countries have eased under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has adopted a friendlier stance towards China in pursuit of improved economic ties.

Meanwhile, the 19th National People's Congress of China, which recently re-elected Chinese President Xi Jinping for another 5-year term, has included coast guard diplomacy among its major policies.

Xi had approved the invitation of PCG delegates to China immediately after his election.

Chinese and Philippine coast guards have also agreed to conduct mutual port visits and crack down on illegal drug shipments. --Report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News