Philippines and China to Improve Communication to Resolve Maritime Issue

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Credit: Alejandro Luengo_Unsplash

Philippines and China to open more communication lines to resolve maritime dispute, reveals a Japan Times news source.

More lines of communications

The Philippines and China have agreed to establish “more lines of communications” to immediately resolve conflicts between the two countries over the West Philippine Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said.

“We are currently working on that and are awaiting the Chinese response and we are confident that these issues would be worked out that would be mutually beneficial for both our nations,” Marcos said in a statement after a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who is on a three-day visit to Manila, his first trip to the Southeast Asian nation.

China and the Philippines should work together to promote peace and stability in Asia by deepening their relations, Qin said before meeting Marcos, in a sign that Beijing is seeking to chip away at U.S. sway in the Southeast Asian nation.

With the Marcos administration bolstering a longstanding defense alliance with the U.S., Beijing wants to strengthen ties with Manila. The Philippines recently granted the U.S. access to more military sites near Taiwan and the South China Sea — two potential flashpoints in the region. Beijing has criticized the move.

“It was really useful that we were able to speak with Minister Qin Gang so we can talk directly to one another and iron things out,” Marcos said. “Some of the pronouncements that have been made recently by our two countries and many other countries might be misinterpreted.”

“Amid the ‘fluid’ and turbulent regional situation, a healthy and stable China-Philippines relationship is not only meeting the aspirations of our two peoples, but also in line with the common aspirations of regional countries,” Qin said before the meeting.

Consensus between the presidents of the two countries

China, Qin said, is ready to work with the Philippines to “truly implement a consensus between the presidents of the two countries.” The leaders met in January and “jointly uphold the bigger picture of our bilateral relations.”

Qin’s visit coincides with the largest U.S.-Philippines military exercises in decades. Top diplomats and defense officials from the countries recently met in Washington, where they expressed “strong objections” to Beijing’s sea claims, and agreed to finalize plans for joint patrols in the disputed waters.

In a statement Friday, Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez said the U.S. pledged $100 million in assistance for the acquisition of medium-lift helicopters for disaster response and non-combat operations. The U.S. also increased funding to $100 million for developing sites that are used under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, bringing the U.S. commitment to 11 billion pesos, he said.

Qin’s visit to the Philippines comes ahead of Marcos’s meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on May 1. They plan to discuss economic cooperation, clean energy transition investment, and efforts to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Philippines has bolstered defense cooperation with the U.S. amid lingering tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea. Marcos’s government has stepped up protests against China’s actions in the disputed sea, including the potential use of a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship — a claim Beijing has denied.

China’s ties with the Southeast Asian nation have also been challenged recently by remarks made by Beijing’s envoy to Manila. Ambassador Huang Xilian drew attention after saying the Philippines is advised to “unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence” if the Southeast Asian country cares “genuinely” about the 150,000 Filipinos working in the island nation. Manila has adhered to the one-China principle.

“It’s very, very useful and very, very productive that Minister Qin came here and that we were able to talk things a little bit through, make plans for the future,” Marcos said.

On Saturday, the Philippines’ top diplomat expressed his concern to Qin over escalating tensions in waters around Taiwan.

Philippine foreign secretary Enrique Manalo met Qin as the two countries seek to deepen economic ties while also managing their dispute in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement after the talks.

“Secretary (Enrique ) Manalo reaffirmed the Philippines’ adherence to the One China Policy, while at the same time expressing concern over the escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait,” the department said.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to bring the island under its control one day, by force if necessary.

Close neighbors across the sea

Qin described China and the Philippines as “close neighbors across the sea.”

“Amid the fluid and turbulent regional situation, a healthy and stable China-Philippines relationship is not only meeting the aspirations of our two peoples, but also in line with the common aspirations of regional countries,” Qin said during the talks.

He told a forum in Shanghai on Friday that recent rhetoric accusing China of disrupting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait could have dangerous consequences.

“Such claims go against basic common sense on international relations and historical justice,” he said.

“The logic is absurd and the consequences dangerous.”

China staged military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan this month that simulated targeted strikes and a blockade of the island. That was in response to a meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

China and the Philippines are also locked in a bitter maritime dispute in the strategic South China Sea.

Manalo said differences in the South China Sea “are not the sum total” of relations between the two nations, which have agreed to manage disagreements through dialogue and cooperation.

 

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Source: Japan Times