MANILA — The Philippines and China will meet for the second bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) on Tuesday (Feb. 13) to tackle their ongoing dispute on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), Malacañang said Monday.
“The second meeting of this Philippine-China bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila tomorrow, February 13, 2018,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said in a Palace briefing.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the BCM was initially scheduled December 2017 but was postponed to February.
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.
Roque said that the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo while the Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.
‘Not soft’ on China
Roque, meanwhile, reiterated that the Philippines is not taking a softer stand on China’s continued militarization in the disputed waters.
“We are not being soft on China. There are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned,” Roque said.
He pointed out that the Philippine government under the Duterte administration has been consistently filing protests.
Moreover, he said that he will present a list of protests to the media this week to set the record straight that the government has in fact been protesting.
“I confirm we have protested not only the building of the islands but also the alleged militarization of the islands and therefore
contrary to claims of critics, we have long protested the military use of the artificial islands in the South China Sea,” he added.
To date, Roque said that the current foreign policy of the Philippines with China is for issues that are non-contentious such as investments and trade to “proceed as soon as possible” and for contentious issues such as the South China to “proceed on the basis of bilateral negotiations.”
Under the BCM, officials from Philippine and Chinese foreign ministries and maritime affairs agencies will meet once every six months.
Roque said that the BCM was established based on the joint statement issued after President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s landmark visit to China in Oct. 2017.