Philippines, China hold dialogue, commit to de-escalate tensions

2024 July 2

DE-ESCALATING TENSIONS. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro and Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong shake hand during the 9th Meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea in Manila on Tuesday (July 2, 2024). The Philippines and China have reaffirmed their commitment to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea following the confrontation near Ayungin Shoal on June 17. (Photo courtesy of DFA)

MANILA – The Philippines and China have reaffirmed their commitment to de-escalating tensions in the South China Sea during their first formal dialogue since the violent skirmish between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines near Ayungin Shoal on June 17.

The two states convened the 9th Meeting of their Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) in Manila on July 2.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro and Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong led the Philippine and Chinese delegations, respectively, and had a “frank and constructive discussions” on the situation.

In her comments, Lazaro told her counterpart that the Philippines would be “relentless in protecting its interests and upholding its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.”

“Noting recent incidents in the South China Sea, both sides recognized that there is a need to restore trust, rebuild confidence, and create conditions conducive to productive dialogue and interaction,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The two sides discussed their respective positions on Ayungin Shoal and affirmed their commitment to de-escalate tensions without prejudice to their respective positions,” it added.

The DFA said there was a “substantial progress” on developing measures to manage the situation at sea, but said “significant differences remain.”

The DFA has yet to provide details when asked what kind of measures the Philippines is pushing and what progress has been reached.

Meanwhile, both sides agreed to continue discussions to find a “mutually acceptable resolution” to the issues.

Communication mechanisms

According to the DFA, the two sides signed the Arrangement on Improving Philippines-China Maritime Communication Mechanisms and agreed to discuss further how to operationalize this mechanism.

They also agreed to continue discussions on maritime cooperation between their coast guard authorities, including the possible resumption of the Joint Coast Guard Committee.

The two sides likewise talked about the possibility of convening an academic forum among scientists and academics on marine scientific and technological cooperation.

“Both sides agreed that continued dialogue on the basis of mutual respect as two equal sovereign states facilitates peace and stability at sea, and committed to having the 10th BCM in China to sustain the positive momentum on discussions,” it said. 

Joyce Ann L. Rocamora (PNA)