Philippines, China agree to manage West Philippine Sea row through 'friendly consultation'
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. met virtually with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the latter’s request on July 14, 2020.

Philippines, China agree to manage West Philippine Sea row through 'friendly consultation'

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 15, 2020 - 3:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — The top diplomats of the Philippines and China agreed to address the West Philippine Sea dispute through "friendly" consultations.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the issue during a virtual meeting on Tuesday afternoon upon the request of the latter.

"With mutual respect, sincerity, and adherence to sovereign equality, both sides will continue to manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ed Menez said the discussion between the two foreign ministers were "frank, open but cordial throughout."

"The two Foreign Ministers recognized that Philippines-China bilateral relations have achieved a positive turn around and a sound momentum of development through the joint efforts and mutual trust of both sides," the DFA said.

Locsin and his Chinese counterpart reiterated that the West Philippine Sea dispute is not the sum of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

China claims indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, in its so-called nine-dash line. In July 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a ruling invalidated Beijing's expansive claims over the South China Sea.

Aside from the maritime dispute, Locsin and Wang also discussed possible ways to move forward in the "new normal" brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which first emerged in China late last year.

Wang's call came two days after Locsin released a statement on the fourth anniversary of the issuance of the award in the South China Sea arbitration.

Citing the arbitral ruling, Locsin stressed that "certain actions" within the Philippine exclusive economic zone violated the Philippines' sovereign rights and were unlawful.

"The arbitral tribunal’s award of 12 July 2016 represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, but for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations," Locsin said.

The DFA chief was referring to Beijing's large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands that severely damaged the marine ecosystem.

China continues to reject this arbitral ruling and has since installed anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jamming equipment on its artificial islands in the Spratlys.

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