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Philippines Opens ‘More Lines Of Communication’ With China To Resolve Maritime Conflict

Chinese maritime law enforcement fleet led by a patrol and rescue vessel Haixun 06 patrols during a joint patrol operation in the central and northern waters of the Taiwan Straits, in Fujian province, China in this handout drone picture released on April 5, 2023 and provided to Reuters on April 6, 2023. Maritime Safety Administration of Fujian/Handout

Philippines Opens ‘More Lines Of Communication’ With China To Resolve Maritime Conflict

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April 23, 2023

By Andreo Calonzo (Bloomberg) The Philippines and China have agreed to establish “more lines of communications” to immediately resolve conflicts between the two countries over the West Philippine Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said.

“We are currently working on that and are awaiting the Chinese response and we are confident that these issues would be worked out that would be mutually beneficial for both our nations,” Marcos said in a statement after a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who is on a three-day visit to Manila, his first trip to the Southeast Asian nation.

China and the Philippines should work together to promote peace and stability in Asia by deepening their relations, Qin said before meeting Marcos, in a sign that Beijing is seeking to chip away at US sway in the Southeast Asian nation.

With the Marcos administration bolstering a longstanding defense alliance with the US, Beijing wants to strengthen ties with Manila. The Philippines recently granted the US access to more military sites near Taiwan and the South China Sea — two potential flashpoints in the region. Beijing has criticized the move.

“It was really useful that we were able to speak with Minister Qin Gang so we can talk directly to one another and iron things out,” Marcos said. “Some of the pronouncements that have been made recently by our two countries and many other countries might be misinterpreted.”

“Amid the ‘fluid’ and turbulent regional situation, a healthy and stable China-Philippines relationship is not only meeting the aspirations of our two peoples, but also in line with the common aspirations of regional countries,” Qin said before the meeting.

China, Qin said, is ready to work with the Philippines to “truly implement a consensus between the presidents of the two countries.” The leaders met in January and “jointly uphold the bigger picture of our bilateral relations.”

Qin’s visit coincides with the largest US-Philippines military exercises in decades. Top diplomats and defense officials from the countries recently met in Washington, where they expressed “strong objections” to Beijing’s sea claims, and agreed to finalize plans for joint patrols in the disputed waters.

In a statement Friday, Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez said the US pledged $100 million in assistance for the acquisition of medium-lift helicopters for disaster response and non-combat operations. The US also increased funding to $100 million for developing sites that are used under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, bringing the US commitment to 11 billion pesos, he said.

Qin’s visit to the Philippines comes ahead of Marcos’s meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on May 1. They plan to discuss economic cooperation, clean energy transition investment, and efforts to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Philippines has bolstered defense cooperation with the US amid lingering tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea. Marcos’s government has stepped up protests against China’s actions in the disputed sea, including the potential use of a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship — a claim Beijing has denied.

China’s ties with the Southeast Asian nation have also been challenged recently by remarks made by Beijing’s envoy to Manila. Ambassador Huang Xilian drew attention after saying the Philippines is advised to “unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence” if the Southeast Asian country cares “genuinely” about the 150,000 Filipinos working in the island nation. Manila has adhered to the one-China principle.

“It’s very, very useful and very, very productive that Minister Qin came here and that we were able to talk things a little bit through, make plans for the future,” Marcos said.

By Andreo Calonzo, Ditas Lopez and Ian Sayson © 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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