PH, China to discuss South China Sea row next week - envoy


Posted at May 13 2017 12:50 PM | Updated as of May 13 2017 12:58 PM

The Philippines and China will begin long-stalled talks on the South China Sea dispute next week, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said Saturday.

"Next week, we will inaugurate the bilateral consultative mechanism on issues of particular concern to each side. This is where the sensitive issues will be discussed... a chance to exchange views on the South China Sea issue," Sta. Romana said in a press conference in Beijing.

After the first session, the meeting will continue on a biannual basis, he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said China has agreed to host the first round of talks.

"China did not have any prerequisites to the planned meeting. Questions like discussing the United Nations (UN) arbitral ruling, China’s intention for facilities constructed on islands within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, among others, are expected to be discussed during the meeting," former DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said in March.

Sta. Romana said counterpart officials from the DFA and the Chinese Foreign Ministry will take part in the inaugural talks.

The consultative meeting was organized after the Philippine government decided to adopt a "compartmentalized" strategy in pursuing its relations with China, for long was strained by the unresolved sea dispute.

Under the Duterte administration's approach, territorial disputes will be discussed separately from economy, trade, culture, and other sectors without friction, Sta. Romana said.

"If you put front and center disputes that cannot be solved overnight, it's going to poison the atmosphere," he said.

The talks will begin just as Chinese militarization and reclamation activities continued in the South China Sea despite its defeat to the Philippines in the landmark legal case on the maritime row.

China has consistently ignored the United Nations arbitral tribunal's ruling that had invalidated its nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the waters, a victory the Philippines scored in July 2016.

The Philippines had initiated the legal case under the Aquino administration when bilateral negotiations had failed.

In the Philippines' recent hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the bloc's joint statement called for the observance of principles under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The statement, however, did not mention continuing Chinese incursions in the waters and the Philippines' legal victory.