THE Philippines and the People’s Republic of China on Thursday tackled steps to enhance maritime cooperation in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) waters, especially in the areas of “search and rescue, safety, environmental protection, scientific research, and fisheries.”
In a press release issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday evening, it said that both states “convened the Third Meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on 18 October 2018 in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.”
The DFA said the exchange of views between the two states was “productive,” and they both tackled “ways to enhance maritime cooperation in areas such as on recent developments in the SCS carrying political and security implications, maritime search and rescue, maritime safety, marine environmental protection/marine scientific research, and fisheries in relevant Working Group meetings under the framework of the BCM.”
The discussion, the DFA also said, was “without prejudice to their respective positions on sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, both sides also discussed possible cooperation on joint exploration and development of maritime oil and gas.”
The two countries also stressed their “commitment to the principles of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, freedom of international commerce and other peaceful uses of the sea, addressing territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned and the exercise of self-restraint, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the foreign affairs department said further.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo led the Philippine delegation while China’s delegation was led by Vice-Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.
The next meeting of the BCM, according to the DFA, is going to be held in Manila “in the first half of 2019, with the exact date and place to be determined and mutually agreed upon through diplomatic channels.” — Arjay L. Balinbin