The Philippines and China have agreed to “manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation” after trading strongly-worded statements over their dispute in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has been asserting its victory arising from the July 12, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejecting China’s claims to the area, but China continues to reject that ruling claiming it is not valid.
During a video meeting on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi “engaged in open, cordial and fruitful discussions” on the matter, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
“Both sides reaffirmed that the contentious maritime issues are not the sum total of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship,” the department said in a statement.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said Wednesday the Philippines will pursue a “peaceful and diplomatic” approach to resolve its long-standing dispute with China in the South China Sea.
“We are looking at peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve the issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
He made the statement in response to a Social Weather Stations poll saying the majority of the Filipinos it surveyed wanted the Philippines to assert its rights to the South China Sea.
Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday supported the call of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to urge the Chinese government to submit to the ruling rejecting its claims to the disputed area.
“We appreciate the United States’ statement denouncing China’s claims to the offshore resources across most of the South China Sea and its campaign of bullying to control them as completely unlawful,” Villanueva said.
Foreign Affairs said the virtual meeting between Locsin and Wang was sought by Wang.
“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,” the department said.
The meeting between Locsin and Wang came after Locsin declared as “non-negotiable” the Arbitral Award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12, 2016, which invalidated China’s expansive nine-dash- line claim over the South China Sea.
The ruling also upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Locsin’s statement marking the fourth year anniversary of the Philippines’ legal victory against China over the disputed South China Sea was rejected by the Chinese Embassy in Manila, saying the PCA ruling was illegal and invalid.
But Locsin “reiterated the importance of a continuing dialogue to propel Philippines-China cooperation forward across various fronts under the new normal brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic.”