PH, China eye marine research, protection in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and China are eyeing possible cooperation in the areas of maritime research, protection, and fisheries cooperation in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Tuesday, October 29.

The DFA said this was considered as working groups on political security, fisheries cooperation, and marine scientific research, and marine environmental protection were convened during the 5th meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea.

"Both sides had further frank discussions on issues of concern, and considered to undertake mutually agreed practical maritime cooperation initiatives, covering maritime search and rescue, maritime safety, and marine research or marine environment protection and fisheries cooperation in the South China Sea," the Philippines and China said in a joint statement.

The bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China sea serves as venue for both Manila and Beijing to discuss issues involving the maritime area. Aside from this, it is also where both countries considered areas for maritime cooperation and developed relations to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The Philippine delegation was led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo while the Chinese delegation was led by Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui. The DFA said officials from respective foreign ministries and relevant agencies were also part of the delegations. 

Other items discussed: Aside from this, the DFA said "the general situation, issues of concern, and maritime issues" between the Philippines and China were discussed. Both countries, it said, likewise committed to "properly address disputes in a positive and constructive attitude."

They also committed to undertake maritime cooperation on different areas to promote "mutual trust and confidence."

Both countries also committed to finish the long-delayed South China Sea code of conduct, which will set guidelines that China and Southeast Asian countries with claims in the South China Sea will agree to follow to avoid any conflict in those waters. (READ: Carpio offers 5 ways ASEAN can counter Chinese intimidation in South China Sea)

The 5th BCM between the Philippines and Manila comes after a Chinese ship rammed, sank, and abandoned Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver in the West Philippine Sea last June. The incident put a spotlight on the Duterte administration's policy on the West Philippine Sea and tested its warm ties with Beijing. 

Prior to this, a series of Chinese survey ships and warships were also spotted in Philippine waters, which Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana himself described as "alarming."

It also comes as the Philippines is pursuing a memorandum of understanding with China on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

The two governments have already formed committees tasked to draft contracts covering specific areas. State corporations from both countries have been designated as default implementors of such contracts.

Both Manila and Beijing are expected to meet and finalize proposed areas for exploration by November this year.

The 6th BCM is scheduled to take place in the Philippines early in the first half of 2020. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image