The Philippines and China will meet on Tuesday for the second bilateral consultative meeting in Manila to discuss the longstanding maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Malacañang said on Monday.
“Now, contentious issues concerning the South China Seas are discussed in what is known as a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea; and 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 said in a Palace briefing.
The BCM, established on October 2016, was meant “to discuss issues of concern to either side, and cooperation in the South China Sea, and identify mutually acceptable approaches towards addressing this issue,” Roque said.
“So we are not being soft on China, there are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned,” he also said.
The BCM, he said, is being conducted at the level of a DFA Undersecretary and a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister; and would be held once every 6 months.
“We were busy last December, and hence, it was postponed for this month of February,” Roque said.
The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, while the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, according to Roque.
The Philippine government has received criticisms it was being “too soft” in dealing with China’s continued militarization in the South China Sea. But Roque has denied this.
Recent aerial photos obtained by Inquirer showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.
The first consultative meeting between Manila and Beijing was held in June 2017 in China. /kga
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