China, Philippines agree to hold S. China Sea meeting bi-annually

The Philippines and China have been at odds over the last decade because of their disputed claims of the South China Sea.

South China Sea dispute: Philippines rejected China's offer of bilateral talks
An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines Reuters

The foreign departments of both China and the Philippines have finally agreed to hold bilateral meetings related to the South China Sea at least twice a year, amid improving diplomatic and business relations.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana called the series of meeting as part of the BCM) set up by both governments to find a peaceful and diplomatic approach to resolve the issues, so as to resolve peace and stability and to further improve bilateral relations and to avoid confrontations, violence that would lead to nobody's benefit.

Their first bilateral meeting on the South China Sea is set on Friday May 19 in Guiyan, China. It will be led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and a team of foreign policy experts who will also meet their China counterparts to discuss how can both countries manage the South China Sea differences and try to understand each other's position.

Romana explained the meeting is timely because this will be an opportunity to explore ways of easing the tensions in the South China Sea to prevent escalation of any possible confrontation or conflict and to increase mutual trust and confidence to find possible areas of cooperation

"The BCM is basically to manage the disputes and to be able to discuss in a frank and friendly way the developments in the South China Sea," Sta. Romana was quoted by ABS-CBN news online.

Cayetano was also recently confirmed by the Committee on appointments. He replaced Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, who was questioned of his eligibility to occupy the DFA post.

The ambassador also admitted that it would take time to address a final resolution to address the disputed waters but he claimed this step is already significant because they now at least sit down and talk.

"Whatever our discussion will be this Friday will be in line with the President's policy," Sta. Romana said without elaborating.

The Philippines and China have been at odds over the last decade because of their disputed claims of the South China Sea but diplomatic relations have improved after Duterte visited China last year and announced that he is realigning his administration with China and Russia.

China also pledged USD 24 billion of soft loans to help the Philippine improve infrastructures projects to improve the country's economy.