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PH-China dialogue starts

BEIJING – It will be a long journey to resolve the South China Sea dispute but the Philippines is ready to jumpstart a dialogue with China tomorrow to further ease the tension and prevent another standoff.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Sta. Romana said the government will engage in a “frank and friendly” dialogue with China via the bilateral consultation mechanism to manage the dispute and promote mutual trust and understanding.

The first meeting of the Philippines-China BCM on the South China Sea issue will be held on the sidelines of a regional summit in Guiyang City, China.

“The President’s directive is to find a peaceful and diplomatic approach to resolve the issue towards to preserve peace and stability, to further improve bilateral relations, and to avoid confrontation, avoid violence,” Sta. Romana said in a media interview at the Philippine Embassy here.

Sta. Romana, however, said the public should not expect a final settlement of the South China Sea dispute instantly in the first session of the BCM.

“This is a significant step in what would be a long journey but the point is at least we can now sit down and talk,” he said. He noted that it was important to understand each other’s views as a beginning of resolving the dispute.

“Please don’t expect the dispute to be resolved overnight. The problem did not arise in one night, one day, and it cannot be resolved in one night,” he added.

Sta. Romana will lead the Philippine delegation for the inaugural session of the bilateral consultation mechanism between the two countries. Representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs will also join the team.

President Duterte earlier said he looks forward to the success of the bilateral dialogue this week as a step in the right direction to resolving the dispute. The two countries are locked in bitter dispute over overlapping claims in the South China Sea in recent years. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)