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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Virtual 6th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism meeting held

Philippines, China convene Bilateral Consultation Mechanism

MANILA – The Philippines and China convened the sixth meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea after a long postponement, yesterday, May 21,2021. The meeting was held virtually.

The meeting was hosted by the Philippines. The sixth bilateral consultation meeting was originally scheduled during the first half of 2020 but has been postponed as COVID-19 pandemic began to impact various governments and halted international travel.

The meeting yesterday followed the fifth BCM in Beijing between then Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique A. Manalo and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui last October 19,2019.

Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Elizabeth P. Buensuceso and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao led their respective delegations.

The Philippine delegation included officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Security Council (NSC), Department of National Defense (DND), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), among others.

The meeting was described as friendly where candid exchanges took place on the general situation and specific areas of concern in the South China Sea. There was mutual recognition of the importance of dialogue in easing tensions and understanding each country’s position and intentions in the area.

“Both China and the Philippine acknowledged the importance of addressing the differences in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality to pave the way for practical cooperation and initiatives,” the statement revealed.

The Philippines reiterated its long-standing call for full respect and adherence to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its authoritative interpretation and application, the final and binding 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award.

The Philippines reported on the progress made in the settlement of the Gem-Ver collision issue involving a Philippine fishing boat and a Chinese vessel. The Department of Justice will take the lead in seeking just compensation for the victims in negotiations to begin next month.

With the positive momentum in the bilateral relations between the two countries, the three working groups of the BCM, (political-security, fisheries cooperation, and marine environmental protection/marine scientific research) discussion common issues and possible areas of cooperation.

Undersecretary Buensuceso said it is important to have complementary bilateral and multilateral platforms in maintaining regional peace and stability such as the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asia Summit. Both sides cited the importance of the full and effective implementation pf the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and their commitment to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The Philippines serves as the Country Coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue mechanism.

It will be recalled the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism, being a bilateral forum was established by President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping during their October 2016 meeting. It was envisioned as a platform for dialogue to expand the existing bilateral relations.

According to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, it has served as a confidence-building process for both China and the Philippines to manage and address difference, promote practical maritime cooperation and environmental protection as well as enhance mutual trust and confidence. (Melo M. Acuña)

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Elizabeth P. Buensuceso (left) and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui during the the sixth Bilateral Consultation Mechanism yesterday which was hosted by the Philippines.

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