His Philippine counterpart emphasized this yesterday, citing the preeminence of “common interest” in such encounter as well as the need to improve maritime governance.
Chinese Coast Guard to visit Philippine next week
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no discussion of the sensitive South China Sea issue with the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) chief who is scheduled to arrive in Manila tomorrow.

His Philippine counterpart emphasized this yesterday, citing the preeminence of “common interest” in such encounter as well as the need to improve maritime governance.

“We’re not discussing that. No, because I’m sure we’ll not reach an agreement. What we’ll be discussing is common interest, maritime governance,” Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia told reporters.

CCG chief Major General Wang Zhongcai is set to visit the Philippines tomorrow until Jan. 17.

Garcia said any discussion will focus on efforts to strengthen humanitarian assistance and on laying down mechanisms for ensuring better protection for fishermen.

He stressed Wang and his staff would only be accorded appropriate diplomatic courtesy – and no red carpet welcome.

“I’d like our countrymen to understand that discussions between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Chinese Coast Guard next week will not just be about the two countries because whatever comes out of them will serve as template or mechanism for the safety of the fishermen and conservation of the resources,” the PCG chief said.

He said they hope to come up with protocol to follow to avoid another Gem-Ver incident. In June last year, a Chinese vessel rammed and sank Gem-Ver, which was carrying 21 fishermen in the vicinity of Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The Chinese left the scene without helping the Filipino fishermen.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy said that despite issues hounding the West Philippine Sea, coast guard cooperation between the Philippines and China has achieved “positive progress” under the Duterte administration.

Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian on Friday met with Garcia to discuss the upcoming visit of a CCG vessel and the third meeting of the Joint Coast Guard Committee between the two countries next week.

On the same day, Garcia was quoted as saying that there is no evidence proving that the Chinese fishing vessels swarming the West Philippine Sea are controlled by Chinese militia.

In its statement, the Chinese embassy said Garcia and the ambassador agreed to enhance pragmatic cooperation in various fields of the coast guard.

“Ambassador Huang said that cooperation between CCG and PCG had made positive progress over the past three years,” read the embassy statement.

“The two sides have established a hotline mechanism and the areas of cooperation have gradually expanded,” it added.

The embassy said the upcoming friendly visit of CCG Vessel 5204 and the subsequent joint exercises will be a good opportunity for both sides to demonstrate goodwill, deepen mutual understanding and trust as well as enhance friendship and cooperation.

According to the embassy, the ambassador believes the visit will inject new impetus into the healthy and steady development of China-Philippine relations and contribute to the regional peace and stability.

The Philippine government under President Duterte has sought to improve ties with China, in contrast to the previous Aquino administration which initiated the successful arbitration against Beijing’s massive claims in the South China Sea.

Despite the supposed friendlier ties, the relationship between the two countries has been marred by issues related to the territorial dispute, including last year’s sinking of Gem-Ver.

For Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, the CCG chief should not be welcomed.

“The CCG was the direct instrument of the Chinese government in harassing and intimidating our fishermen in our own Exclusive Economic Zone at Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea,” Rodriguez said.

“It was also the CCG which blocked Filipino vessels in our resupply mission to the Philippine Navy’s BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. It also shadows and monitors our Navy in the West Philippine Sea,” the veteran lawmaker recalled.

“The CCG is not welcome here,” he stressed.

Rodriguez, a former law dean, also contested the claim of Garcia that the CCG visit is merely a “diplomatic reciprocity.”

He said Garcia is “grossly incorrect” and “rather blind” in welcoming the CCG to Manila.

Rodriguez said he plans to seek a congressional inquiry into Garcia’s actions. “I will file a resolution in the House to investigate Adm. Garcia for his irresponsible and insensitive statements on rolling out the red carpet to welcome the CCG, the oppressors of our fishermen and which disrespects our Navy,” he said. – With Edu Punay





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