The Philippines reiterated its call for respect and adherence to international law regarding the West Philippine Sea at a virtual bilateral meeting with China on Friday, May 21.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a press statement on Saturday, May 22, that the call was made at the 6th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM), a forum established by President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016.
The meeting was led by Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao.
“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 DFA said.
The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but China is claiming it as its own. Tensions have been high over the past weeks because of Chinese militarization of the area and the continued swarming of Chinese vessels despite repeated calls by Philippine officials for them to leave the area.
Duterte and his government have been strongly criticized over their “confusing” response to the presence of the Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea. He even belittled the Philippines’ 2016 win against China, wherein an arbitral tribunal junked Beijing’s expansive claim over the South China Sea.
The DFA described the discussions as “friendly and candid exchanges.”
“Both sides acknowledged the importance of addressing differences in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality to pave the way for practical cooperation and initiatives,” the DFA said.
The collision of the Filipino fishing vessel Gem-Ver and a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea was also discussed. The Philippine Department of Justice will take the lead in seeking compensation for the victims in negotiations to be held in June.
The Philippine delegation to the BCM included officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Security Council, Department of National Defense, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Justice, and other key agencies. – Rappler.com