By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE PHILIPPINE government and the People’s Republic of China are set to discuss the contentious issues concerning the South China Sea on Tuesday, Feb. 13, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said.
“Now contentious issues concerning the South China Sea are discussed in what is known as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea. [T]he second meeting of this Philippine-China BCM on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila tomorrow, Feb. 13, 2018,” Mr. Roque announced in a press briefing at the Palace on Monday, Feb. 12.
The spokesman highlighted that the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been “consistently protesting” China’s military buildup in the area, saying “we are not being soft on China, [because] there are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned.”
Mr. Roque likewise explained that the BCM was established based on the joint statement issued after President Duterte’s landmark visit to China in October, 2016.
“The purpose of this BCM is to discuss issues of concern to either side and cooperation in the South China Sea, and identify mutually acceptable approaches towards addressing this issue,” he added.
The BCM, according to Mr. Roque, “is conducted at the level of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and is to be held once every 6 months.”
“We were busy last December, and hence it was postponed for this month of February. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, while the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo.”
Asked why the government is now giving an emphasis to this matter, Mr. Roque said: “Well, it’s really not an emphasis. It’s just a matter of informing the public that a mechanism has been in existence, and in response to claims that we are not doing anything. We are doing what the government has deemed best to be done.”