MANILA— The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has announced that the Philippines and China are seeking to meet for the second bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) in February — a blueprint which tackles issues on the South China Sea dispute.
DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters that Manila will raise all reported developments in the area during the talks.
Recently, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they would urge the foreign affairs department to file a diplomatic protest should they “see that the Chinese are militarizing the area (that is) very near our place.”
This was in response to a report of state-run China Central Television (CCTV), which bared shots of Fiery Cross Reef that appears to have been “transformed into an airbase.”
Lorenzana said the Fiery Cross Reef is “very near” Reed Bank, an area in the South China Sea situated within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
According to Cayetano, while developments on the resolution over the longstanding sea dispute are not yet one hundred percent done, the establishment of the BCM enabled the two parties to move forward.
Cayetano assured that all activities in any of the features in the contested region, including the reported airbase in the area, will be raised at the BCM.
The first meeting of the Philippines-China BCM on the South China Sea was held in Guiyang, Guizhou Province in China last May 19, 2017.
While the date for the second dialogue is set next month, the DFA has yet to announce the exact venue for the meeting.
Banking on ‘good faith’
Pressed for comment on the reported structure in the South China Sea, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the “general thrust” of the Philippines “is to rely on the principle of good faith.”
Roque said the scope of this principle of good faith is in China’s commitment not to reclaim “new areas” or build “new artificial islands” in the strategic waters.
“So far, we believe there has not been any reason why we should doubt China’s good faith on the building, on its commitment to desist from making reclamation or from building new islands,” he said.