February 25, 2018, 3:36 am
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PH, China agree to build trust on sea dispute

DESPITE the militarization by China of contested islands in the South China Sea, the Philippines and China yesterday agreed to “exercise self-restraint” in their actions and to conduct more confidence building measures.

In a joint press statement after the 2nd Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea, delegates of the two countries said they had a positive, fruitful, and productive meeting.

“Both sides agreed to continue discussions on confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence and to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability,” said the joint statement released on early Tuesday evening.

Proof of this, they claimed, is their plan to strengthen bilateral cooperation in areas such as marine environmental protection, fisheries, marine scientific research, and oil and gas. 

This, they added, shall be without prejudice to their respective positions on sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction. 

They reiterated their commitments to the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“(Both reiterated commitments to) begin negotiations on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea early next month, as agreed at the 20th Asean-China Summit on 13 November 2017 in Manila,” said the joint statement.

Finally, both sides reaffirmed that the contentious maritime issues are not the sum total of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship.

 The delegations in the 2nd BCM on the South China Sea were led by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo for the Philippines, and Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou for China.  

A third meeting of the BCM will be held in China in the second half of 2018. – Gerard Naval
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