PH, Chinese foreign ministers agree to continue consultation on maritime issues

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2020 04:58 PM

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet virtually at the latter's request, and engaged in open, cordial, and fruitful discussions on 14 July 2020. Photo courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs

MANILA - The foreign ministers of the Philippines and China agreed to continue managing "issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation", Manila said Wednesday, after strongly worded statements were issued over the Philippine's legal victory four years ago on its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi also agreed in a video meeting on Tuesday, to strengthen their countries' comprehensive strategic cooperation, noting that the maritime issues “are not the sum total" of their relationship.

Wang requested for the meeting, according to the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs. Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez of the DFA Office of Strategic Communication and Research said the video call took place approximately from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

On the 4th anniversary last Sunday of the landmark arbitration award on the South China Sea that invalidated Beijing's sweeping nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters, Locsin declared that the ruling, which China rejects, is non-negotiable.

"Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to which both parties are signatories," Locsin said in a statement that day.

China responded to assert it will never accept any claim or action based on the award.

On Tuesday, China heard a mouthful from United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, explicitly saying that the US is aligning its position on the South China Sea with the 2016 arbitral tribunal’s decision.

Pompeo called out China’s claims “to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea” as “completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.” 

The Chinese Embassy in the United States then issued a statement, telling the United States to stay out of the disputes, saying that the US is not even a signatory to UNCLOS.

Beijing accused Washington of deliberately distorting the facts and international law, and exaggerating the situation in the region to sow discord between China and its neighbors. 

China claimed it is committed to resolving disputes through negotiations and consultations with countries directly involved, citing mechanisms to manage differences. 

Also on Tuesday, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged China to comply with the award and abide by the UNCLOS, saying heeding the call of the international community to follow international law and honor international agreements bodes well of the stability in the region.

Asked if the strongly worded statements were discussed by the two ministers, Meñez said “the matter was raised, among others, during the discussion.”
 
“Both sides articulated their respective positions in exchanges that were frank, open but cordial throughout,” he said.

The DFA's press release about the meeting said, "With mutual respect, sincerity, and adherence to sovereign equality, both sides will continue to manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation."

Locsin “reiterated the importance of continued dialogue to propel Philippines-China cooperation forward across various fronts, under the ‘new normal’ brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” it added. 

“The two Foreign Ministers recognized that Philippines-China bilateral relations have achieved a positive turn around and a sound momentum of development through the joint efforts and mutual trust of both sides.”