Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, top left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, top right, attend a signing ceremony following their bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017. Etienne Oliveau/Pool Photo via AP

Philippines enters 'new chapter' in handling sea row with China
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - May 17, 2017 - 7:23am

MANILA, Philippines — The forthcoming revived talks between the Philippines and China can be considered as a "new chapter" in handling the South China Sea dispute, Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana said.

Romana will lead the Philippine delegation for the inaugural bilateral consultation meeting on the sea dispute on Friday in Guiyang, China.

At a televised press conference on Wednesday, Sta. Romana said that the basic approach in settling the dispute is to create a vision that would lead to the final settlement of the sea row.

"We will focus on issues of concern to each side and as well as try to use this mechanism to increase mutual trust and confidence and to find possible areas of cooperation," Sta. Romana said.

Both parties have agreed to meet at least twice a year to manage the dispute and to discuss in a frank and friendly way the developments in the South China Sea, the ambassador said.

Sta. Romana noted that the inaugural meeting would be spent to review the situation, exchange views, discuss possible approaches to manage the dispute and increase cooperation on maritime issues.

"The essence of bilateral talks is that you're able to raise issues of concerns to you to the other side not through megaphone diplomacy but through frank and friendly dialogue," Sta. Romana said.

The ambassador refused to reveal the talking points of the Philippines in the upcoming meeting.

"The talking points are being finalized. It's never a wise move to announce ahead of time... All of these are part of South China Sea issues," the envoy said.

Sta. Romana added that there will be several sessions where both parties can raise issues of concern to the other side.

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo earlier said that the Philippines will not raise the ruling of an international tribunal on the South China in the upcoming talks with China.

"China has disassociated itself from the arbitral ruling and the president has been quite clear that he will not be raising the arbitral ruling. He's not setting it aside but he won't be raising it until an appropriate time during his administration," Manalo said in a television interview last month.

The Philippines, however, is expected to raise China's construction of military facilities in the contested waters.

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