THE Philippines and China have agreed that the issue of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea (SCS) is “tiny” compared to the friendly relations that should be nurtured between the two countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, in her daily press briefing in Beijing said the Philippines and China forged a broad consensus on the SCS issue during Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin’s recent visit to the Philippines where he also met with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The two sides had candid and in-depth exchanges and forged broad consensus on the South China Sea issue. We have come to an agreement that the South China Sea is only a tiny part compared to the overwhelmingly friendly relations between China and the Philippines that keep growing, and should be peacefully resolved through dialogue and consultation.”
Meanwhile, pending the final settlement of relevant issues, the two countries agreed to properly manage disputes, press ahead with maritime practical cooperation and create a favorable environment for the sound and steady development of bilateral ties, she explained.
“They agreed to work alongside other ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), move forward the negotiation process of the code of conduct in the South China Sea (COC), complete the draft framework of the COC before the middle of this year, and strive to reach the COC at an early date based on consensus.”
A bilateral negotiation mechanism on the South China Sea issue will be set up to be able to tackle issues of common concerns and foster maritime cooperation and security.
Hua noted China is ready to join hands with the Philippines to implement the important consensus reached by leaders, sustain close exchanges at a high level, resume relevant cooperation mechanisms, push for practical cooperation across the board in order to deliver more benefits of cooperation to the two countries and their people and elevate the bilateral relationship to a new height.
China will offer full support to the Philippines in fulfilling its duties as this year’s rotating chair of ASEAN, and hopes that China-ASEAN cooperation will make greater strides as ASEAN celebrates its 50th birthday this year.
Duterte was invited to Beijing in May for a high-level forum on international cooperation of the Belt and Road initiative, where another meeting with President Xi Jinping is expected.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a significant development strategy launched by the Chinese government with the intention of promoting economic co-operation among countries in Africa, Asia and Europe along the proposed Belt and Road routes.