West Philippine Sea

PH, China mull resumption of Duterte-era joint coast guard committee 

Bea Cupin

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PH, China mull resumption of Duterte-era joint coast guard committee 

CHINESE HARASSMENT. The China Coast Guard brandishes weapons, uses sirens, and threatens Filipino soldiers already moored alongside the BRP Sierra Madre during a June 17, 2024 resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.

Armed Forces of the Philippines

(1st UPDATE) Manila and Beijing say there is 'substantial progress on developing measures to manage the situation at sea, but significant differences remain'

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and China discussed the “possible resumption” of a Duterte-era Joint Coast Guard Committee (JCGC), during a bilateral meeting on issues in the South China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong met in Manila on Tuesday, July 2, for the 9th meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China 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,” said the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

It’s the first BCM meeting since China Coast Guard (CCG) personnel blocked, harassed, towed, and boarded Philippine Navy rubber boats during a military resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on June 17.

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

Manila and Beijing said there was “substantial progress on developing measures to manage the situation at sea, but significant differences remain.”

“Both sides agreed to continue discussions to find a mutually-acceptable resolution to the issues,” the statement added.

In a separate statement, China said the BCM meeting was a “candid and constructive exchange of views…on handling the situation at Ren’ai Jiao.” Ren’ai Jiao is what China calls Ayungin Shoal. 

In a statement released by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Beijing insisted that it has “sovereignty” over the Spratlys, including Ayungin Shoal. The ministry said they “[urged] the Philippine side to stop maritime infringement and provocation at once” and to “abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)” and “return to the right track of properly handling disputes through dialogue and consultation.” 

Beijing also said it urged Manila to “promote the easing and cooling down of the maritime situation, and stabilize China-Philippines relations from further deterioration.” 

The JCGC was established as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the CCG signed during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China in October 2016.

Manila and Beijing also signed an “Arrangement on Improving Philippines-China Maritime Communication Mechanisms” and “agreed to discuss further how to operationalize this mechanism,” the DFA said.

The two countries also agreed to “continued discussions on the possibility of convening an academic forum among scientists and academics on marine scientific and technological cooperation.”

This would not be the first time for the Philippines and China to emphasize possible cooperation between its two coast guards during a BCM.

In the 8th BCM meeting hosted by Shanghai in January 2024, the two countries promised to improve “maritime communication mechanism” not just between diplomats but between their respective coast guards.

Likewise, discussions to improve communication mechanism in general are also not new. Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Beijing and Manila agreed to establish a hotline of sorts, to manage tensions in the South China Sea. But the DFA itself noted that in instances where tensions rose, China either did not pick up the phone or was slow to respond.

Tensions in the West Philippine Sea, or parts of the South China Sea that include the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), have gone up in the past year or so, particularly in flashpoints like Ayungin Shoal and Scarborough Shoal. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.