PH, China officials agree on dialogue amid tensions | Global News

PH, China officials agree on dialogue amid tensions

05:50 AM December 22, 2023

Wang Yi Enrique Manalo ph philippines china dialogue

Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Foreign Minister Wang Yi —REUTERS FILE PHOTO

Both the Philippines and China have agreed to continue conducting open dialogues to reduce tensions between the two countries, especially over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.

In a phone conversation, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and Foreign Minister Wang Yi presented the positions of their respective governments on certain issues, the DFA said.


“We had a frank and candid exchange and ended our call with a clearer understanding of our respective positions on a number of issues,” the DFA quoted Manalo as saying.


“We both noted the importance of dialogue in addressing these issues,” Manalo added.

The statement of the Chinese Embassy in Manila gave more details about the conversation, such as Wang’s warnings to the government to cease pulling third-party countries into the South China Sea conflict or else Beijing would be forced to “defend” itself.

“He [Wang] warned that if the Philippine side misjudges the situation, goes its own way, or even colludes with ill-intentioned external forces to continue to stir up troubles, China will defend its rights in accordance with law and respond resolutely,” the Embassy’s statement read.

“Noting that the bilateral relationship now stands at a crossroads, with its future yet to be decided, Wang said the Philippine side must act with caution,” the Embassy said.

Wang repeated Beijing’s accusation that Manila is a source of the maritime conflict for “undermining China’s legitimate and lawful rights,” referring to its expansionist 10-dash line claim to practically the whole of the South China Sea.

2016 arbitral award

China’s sweeping claim has already been stricken down by the 2016 arbitral award for having “no legal basis in international law.” The same award reaffirmed the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.


The award has earned support from major countries, such as the United States, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, South Korea, India and Canada. But China refuses to recognize the final and executory decision and condemns certain countries for supporting it.

“Instead of continuing in the wrong direction, the Philippine side should return to the right path as soon as possible, with properly handling and managing the current maritime situation as a top priority,” Wang told Manalo.

But retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the officials who spearheaded the country’s case for the 2016 award, told the Inquirer on Thursday that the right path means following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) that declared the South China Sea to be the high seas, which means it belongs to all of mankind without it being a part of any single country’s territory.

The Unclos also declares some parts of the South China Sea to be an EEZ of coastal countries, such as the West Philippine Sea, which was upheld by the 2016 award. “Our number one criterion for choosing an ally is that it must not claim, seize, or encroach on Philippine territory or maritime zones. The UN Charter expressly allows collective mutual defense between states against armed aggression by other states. Our mutual defense treaty with the US is allowed under the UN Charter as a legitimate self-defense measure,” Carpio said, responding to China’s warning against Manila’s security alliance with Washington.

Stronger PH-US ties

President Marcos has strengthened ties with the United States, including expanding US access to his military bases while seeking assurances on how much Washington will defend his country from attack—moves that have irked China and emboldened Manila’s defense top brass.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro on Wednesday rebuked China and said “no country in the world” supports its maritime claim. The United States and other western powers have condemned China’s coastguard for confronting and blocking Philippine vessels in Manila’s EEZ.

On Thursday, the Philippines said its military chief and Japan’s top general held talks about “pressing regional security issues,” during which they stressed the importance of alliance-building to counter aggression, including in the South China Sea.

“The meeting demonstrates the [Philippine military’s] commitment to strengthening its partnership with like-minded nations and drawing support for the advancement of a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” a statement from the Philippine military said. —With a report from Reuters

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READ: DFA chief vows to continue upholding PH sovereignty, territorial integrity in 2023

TAGS: China, dialogue, West Philippine Sea, WPS

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