MANILA – Maritime issues between the Philippines and China play an important part in relations between the countries, senior officials from the countries said on Friday, as both sides pledged to work together to resolve differences.

Tensions between the neighbors have recently flared up over what Manila described as “aggressive activities” by China in the South China Sea.

Beijing, which claims large parts of the South China Sea including some areas in Philippine waters, has also been concerned over an increasing US military presence in the Southeast Asian country.

Maritime differences with Beijing were a “serious concern”, but could be resolved through the “exhaustion of all diplomatic means”, Philippine foreign ministry undersecretary Theresa Lazaro said after talks with Chinese counterparts.

The comments were made during the first in-person meeting this week between senior diplomats from the countries since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said maritime issue were not “the entirety of its relations” with the Philippines.

The two countries needed to stay committed to deepen cooperation and trust, Sun said. – Reuters