MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday restated the Philippines’ adherence to the arbitral ruling on its claim in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Lorenzana, in a statement, said it abides by the award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration constituted under Annex VII to the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its enforcement “without any possibility of compromise or change.”
The Philippines won an arbitration award in 2016 from the PCA in The Hague, which ruled that China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had no legal basis.
Beijing continues to disregard the landmark ruling.
Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue “to conduct routine, legitimate maritime patrols in the WPS and challenge any activities that infringe on Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”
Lorenzana and General Wei Fenghe, Minister of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, agreed that both countries should continue to resort to dialogue and consultation to manage disputes.
The Philippines' top defense official believes that his meeting with General Wei will foster collaboration between both countries’ defense establishments and advance mutual trust for future exchanges on matters of security and mutual concern.
“While we may not agree on some issues, as good friends and neighbors, we remain firm in finding ways to improve our relations,” Lorenzana said.
The two defense chiefs also discussed key issues, including best practices in responding to COVID-19, with Wei conveying China’s readiness to share its experience in combatting the pandemic.
Both also agreed to continue working on revising the 2004 Philippines-China Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation that will pave the way for more personnel exchanges, trainings, and better communications channel between the AFP and PLA.
Meanwhile, Friday’s meeting also saw the signing of P1-billion worth of humanitarian assistance disaster response (HADR) equipment from China.
“I understand that this is the fourth since 2017 and largest military gratis that China will be providing for the Philippines,” he said.