BEIJING, China – The Philippines and China have agreed to resume bilateral “dialogue and consultation” to properly resolve the thorny dispute in the South China Sea.
The consensus was reached during the historic meeting between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping as they moved to bring diplomatic relations “back to the track of friendship.”
“The two sides have briefly mentioned the South China Sea. Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relations between the two countries,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters after the meeting of the two leaders at the Great Hall of the People.
“The two sides agreed that they will come back to what they have agreed five years ago that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking proper settlement of the South China Sea issue,” he added.
The planned revival of the bilateral dialogue comes after an international arbitration nullified China’s expansive territorial claims over the resource-rich South China Sea in a case lodged by the Philippines. Duterte earlier said he would not raise the country’s territorial claims out of respect for the Chinese hosts but would not allow any bargaining of the territory during the talks.
In the same media interview, Liu said Duterte’s visit to China marks a “new stage” of the maritime cooperation between the two countries.
He said a “new page” has been opened between Manila and Beijing in addressing the South China Sea issue through bilateral consultations. “In this visit, bilateral relations have fully recovered and two countries will return to track of dialogue and consultation to address maritime issues,” Liu said.
He noted that the agreement between the Coast Guard departments of the two countries was already an indication the two countries have started maritime cooperation.
The fishing rights of Filipinos in the Scarborough Shoal, on the other hand, were not tacked in the meeting between Duterte and Xi. “The two Presidents did not mention the issue of the Huangyan Island but they did talk about the cooperation in fishery,” Liu said.
He said the two countries agreed to strengthen fisheries cooperation in the South China Sea as well as cooperation in terms of fishery products and industries. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)