MANILA—China is looking forward to a May 2017 bilateral meeting with the Philippines to thresh out maritime issues in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea or SCS), Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said this was one of the issues discussed during the meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in Davao City Monday.
“His Excellency Zhao Jianhua conveyed that China looks forward to the convening in May 2017 of the first meeting of the bilateral mechanism set up to properly handle the SCS issue. Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided,” Abella told reporters in a Palace briefing
“He (Zhao) is also looking forward to the resumption of bilateral defense cooperation and participation in the One Belt One Road Summit in Beijing in May 2017,” he added.
Duterte is set to return to China in May for the “One Belt, One Road” summit upon the invitation of President Xi Jinping.
The President first visited China on a state visit in October 2016.
According the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the China-ASEAN meeting on the code of conduct is also set for May.
Abella said that Zhao also conveyed China’s willingness for the implementation of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the coast guards of the two countries on the establishment of a Joint Coast Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation.
The MOU, which was signed on Oct. 20, 2016 in Subic, was witnessed by Duterte and Xi Jinping.
“H.E. Zhao looks forward to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) delegation’s visit to China to hammer out actions, activities and new engagements to ensure that SCS is a sea of cooperation,” Abella said.
To enhance exchange and cooperation between the two maritime law enforcement agencies, both sides have agreed during the October meeting to conduct bilateral exchanges in 2017, including high-level visits, maritime operations and related exercises, vessel visits and capacity building.
The China Coast Guard (CCG) has also invited PCG officials for a high-level visit to China at an appropriate time in 2017.