MANILA — A senior Chinese diplomat will visit the Philippines this week to hold bilateral talks with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the South China Sea and other issues.
In a press conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Wenbin said the country's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong would be in Manila from March 22 to 24 to attend the the 23rd China-Philippines Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) and the seventh meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea.
In the meetings, Sun is expected to meet with his Philippine counterpart, DFA Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Theresa Lazaro, in the first in-person bilateral consultations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The two sides will compare notes on implementing our presidents’ important common understandings reached during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s January visit to China and on advancing cooperation in priority areas. The two sides will also have in-depth communication on properly handling maritime disputes and advancing practical maritime cooperation, and exchange views on international and regional issues of shared interest," Wang said.
"We hope and believe that this round of consultation will help enhance mutual understanding and trust and bring about closer communication and coordination between the two sides, and galvanize joint efforts for the sound and steady growth of bilateral ties," he added.
For its part, the DFA said in a statement that the diplomatic consultation "will cover a broad number of issues, including economic, people-to-people, maritime, security, and regional matters."
The BCM, meanwhile, will have both the Philippines and China discuss developments on the West Philippine Sea, and possible areas for maritime cooperation.
During his Manila visit, Sun is also set to make a courtesy call on DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo.
"The back-to-back conduct of the FMC and BCM highlights the goodwill between the Philippines and China to dialogue and move forward on practical measures," the DFA said.
The last FMC was held in 2019, while the last BMC took place in 2021.
The consultations come amid tensions between the 2 countries due to a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, some parts of which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
Tensions escalated in February, when the Chinese Coast Guard pointed a military-grade laser at Philippine Coast Guard personnel in the Ayungin Shoal. The Philippines has since filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.
The Philippines and the United States were also expected to announce the additional Philippine military bases that American soldiers will be allowed to use, in a move seen as the superpower's attempt to counter China's influence in the Asia-Pacific.