Philippines and China to establish more lines of communication to solve maritime issues

  • The Philippines is in a series of meetings with the United States and China
  • Manila says the relations are more than a dispute in the South China Sea
  • Manila affirms its commitment to the one-China policy

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his foreign minister met Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Gang on Saturday, and Manila and Beijing pledged to work together to resolve their maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

The talks between the two countries’ top officials in Manila are the latest in a series of high-level meetings for the Philippines with leaders of the United States and China as the two superpowers jostle for strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Regarding conflicts, we agreed to establish more lines of communication so that any incident occurring in the West Philippine Sea involving China and the Philippines can be resolved immediately,” Marcos said in a statement. Manila refers to the part of the South China Sea that it claims to be the West Philippine Sea.

Marcus said Chen’s visit was helpful in discussing matters and continuing work on developing the relationship between the two neighbors.

Chen and his counterpart, Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo, discussed views on strategic and regional issues during bilateral talks that began earlier Saturday.

At the beginning of the talks, Qin said the two countries need to work together to carry on the tradition of friendship, deepen cooperation and properly resolve differences. He added that joint action will help promote peace and stability in the region and the world.

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Manalo reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to the one-China policy, while at the same time expressing concern over the escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

China’s ambassador to the Philippines last week caused a stir when he accused the Southeast Asian country of “stuffing the fire” of regional tensions by giving access to an expanded military base to the United States, which he accused of meddling.

This month the Philippines announced the location of four additional US military bases, three of which face north toward Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

Manila’s foreign minister said relations with Beijing are about more than their differences over the South China Sea, which sees the passage of some $3 trillion in shipborne goods annually and is believed to be rich in minerals and oil and gas deposits.

“These differences should not prevent us from looking for ways to manage them effectively, especially with regard to the enjoyment of rights by Filipinos, especially fishermen,” Manalo said, adding that waterway accidents and actions undermine their livelihoods.

China claims 90% of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, but is opposed by Southeast Asian countries and Taiwan.

Since Marcos took office in June, the Philippines has lodged dozens of diplomatic protests over the presence of Chinese fishing vessels and what it calls China’s “aggressive actions” in the strategic waterway.

Marcos is set to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington in May, days after more than 17,000 Filipino and US troops completed the largest-ever joint military exercises in the Southeast Asian country, drawing criticism from Beijing.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales). Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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