Philippine prepares for bilateral talks on WPS with China after Ayungin incident

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Philippine prepares for bilateral talks on WPS with China after Ayungin incident
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro answer questions from the media about the Ayungin resupply incident during a press briefing on June 24, 2024.
Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro highlighted the primacy of diplomacy in resolving the issue with China, as Philippine officials are set to meet their Chinese counterparts for the next round of the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism on the South China Sea.

The schedule of the next meeting, which is expected to be hosted by Philippines, has yet to be determined.

“I just want to say that Secretary Teodoro mentioned about the peaceful means. Yes, that is always being exercised,” Lazaro told reporters at a Palace press briefing.

“We are also doing something on the diplomatic front. We have a mechanism that has been in existence for quite a number of years,” she said, referring to the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism on the South China Sea with China.

The last meeting was held on January 17 in Shanghai, where the two parties formulated “some confidence-building measures,” according to Lazaro.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, for his part, asked China to “lessen its aggression,” saying that he does not see the issue ending soon.

“We are saddened by China’s very aggressive behavior.  Let’s deescalate the tension,” he said at a press briefing.

According to Romualdez, it is very unlikely for the dispute over the West Philippine Sea to be resolved “today and not tomorrow” so it is better for the two countries to work for a “peaceful resolution for us.”

“Let us not make this disagreement and conflict in WPS define the totality of the relationship between China and the Philippines,” he pointed out.

Militant group Anakbayan, meanwhile, has condemned China’s actions and that of the US for its military buildup in the country.

“China’s bid to supplant the United States as the dominant imperialist power in the Indo-Pacific has brought great harm to our people,” Anakbayan stated.

It argued, however, that US involvement does more harm than good. “The US has maintained the Philippines as its neo-colony, benefiting from lopsided economic and political agreements,” Anakbayan said in a statement.

“Now, threatened by China’s rise, the US seeks to maintain its hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and use the Philippines as its forward base for war,” the group said.

“It is high time that the West Philippine Sea is demilitarized. We must not allow either China or the US to continue using our sovereign waters in their rivalry,” Anakbayan said.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the Philippines should not let itself be influenced by the US.

The “saber-rattling of the US government and their mouthpieces are primarily responsible for the escalating tensions in the WPS,” she said.

“While we condemn China’s lies and their continued bullying in our maritime territories, we must also be cautious about falling into the US narrative and playing into their provocation,” she added. — Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo, Daphne Galvez, Mark Ernest Villeza

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