Defense chiefs of Philippines, China agree to talk on issues

Posted on June 01, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Defense ministers of the Philippines and China have agreed to open a series of dialogues to prevent the escalation of conflict in the South China Sea.

A statement from both camps, however, showed they stood firm on their positions on the dispute.

"Well, the reaction of the Chinese Defense Minister was a welcome gesture because I sat down with him and talked about the issues concerning both countries and, like I said, we agreed on three points: to restrain our action; to restrain our statement so that it stops escalating; and then we then continue to open lines of communication until we come up with a peaceful resolution to the case," Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said in a press briefing available online.

China Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, on the other hand, said his country is determined to protect its national sovereignty and to deal with disputes peacefully.

"China will never slough off its responsibility to ensure regional peace and stability, never change its choice of pursuing peace and development, never slacken its efforts to promote regional cooperation, never give up its sincere pursuit of peaceful resolutions to disputes and never waver from its determination to guard its national sovereignty," Mr. Liang was quoted in an article that was published by the state-owned People’s Daily.

The same article was also published in other Chinese newspapers on Thursday.

The meeting of the two defense officials came amid the ongoing standoff between China and the Philippines over the disputed shoal, where both countries have its respective deployed patrol vessels in the area.

Scarborough Shoal is believed to be rich in natural resources and part of the disputed islands in South China Sea that other member countries in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are also claiming wholly or partly.

During the ASEAN Defense Ministers meeting, member countries did not state specific information on how the regional block could resolve the dispute but rather it issued a general statement reaffirming its commitment to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and to work toward the adaptation of a regional code of conduct that would further promote peace and stability in the region. -- Darwin T. Wee