MANILA - Diplomatic exchange between the Philippines and China is important, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said Thursday, amid two countries' dispute over the South China Sea.
Locsin had a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN-China Special Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Chongqing, China on Monday to mark 30 years of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.
“SFA Locsin affirmed the importance of diplomatic communication with China on concerns over the South China Sea,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a tweet.
Both sides also “stressed pragmatic cooperation” for the development of Philippines-China relations on areas including COVID response, economy, trade, regional and international issues of mutual concern, according to the foreign office.
During the Ministers’ meeting co-chaired by Locsin and Wang, Locsin said the Philippines is committed to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and called on all “to uphold the spirit of and the full and effective implementation” of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and “remain faithful to our commitments guided by international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS.”
"This calls for exercise of utmost self-restraint, refraining from actions that escalate tensions and seeking peaceful resolution of disputes," he said.
Locsin also expressed the Philippines’ deep concern over the situation in Myanmar and called for “unhindered humanitarian assistance to all the peoples of Myanmar who need it,” the swift implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees and restoration of “the status quo ante.”
In his remarks at the preparatory breakfast meeting prior to the Ministers’ Meeting, Locsin noted that China is a valuable and preeminent partner of ASEAN, pointing out that ASEAN and the superpower are each other’s "top trading partners.”
For the region's economy to bounce back, ASEAN and China “should continue to synergize” the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 with the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
Locsin thanked China for its donation of vaccines to the region, stressing that “though the world now has vaccines, we lack equitable access to them.”
The meeting marks the first physical meeting of ASEAN with a dialogue partner since the start of the pandemic.