THE Philippines and China convened on Monday the first meeting on joint oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

The meeting of the Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee on Cooperation in Oil and Gas Development, created during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s August meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, was held in Beijing on Oct. 28.

“The Committee had a candid, in-depth and friendly exchange on cooperation arrangements under the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding),” the DFA said in a statement.

The Committee also “agreed to further push forward communication and coordination on oil and gas development, with a view to achieving progress in accordance with the MoU.”

Mr. Duterte, during his visit, raised the Philippines’ claim over the disputed waters, as affirmed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Mr. Xi, however, asserted that China refuses to recognize the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated its claim based on the so-called nine-dash line, which is found in maps fencing off much of the sea. The line extends far beyond Chinese territory and skirts the coastlines of other claimants like Vietnam, thereby denying their claims to a broader exclusive economic zone.

The Philippine delegation was led by Foreign Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo, while the Chinese panel was led by Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui.

Also present were Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Generoso DG. Calonge and Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos.

The Committee is set to convene for a second time in early 2020.

On Monday, the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea convened for a fifth time to discuss practical maritime cooperation and enhancement of dialogue. The BCM is also scheduled to meet within the first half of 2020. — Charmaine A. Tadalan