Maritime issues a serious concern for Filipinos — DFA

"Maritime issues continue to remain a serious concern for the Filipino people."

That was what Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Ma. Theresa Lazaro told Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong as they held the second round of the Philippines-China consultative meetings in Manila on Friday.

Lazaro voiced her concern because the Philippines and China are also "in agreement that maritime issues do not comprise the totality of bilateral relations between our two countries."

Nevertheless, she still believed that such issues "should be addressed through diplomacy and dialogue and never through coercion and intimidation," as agreed by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and President Xi Jinping.

"The meeting today is an attempt to follow through on that decision. The BCM (Bilateral Consultations Mechanism), established and first convened in 2017, has served as the primary platform for confidence building and promoting maritime cooperation between our two countries," she said at the opening of the session.

Sun agreed that Manila and Beijing must commit to "good neighborliness."

He also pushed to deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation and enhance mutual understanding and trust as "this is the only right path for us to develop the bilateral relations."

"Maritime issues are an important part of China-Philippines relations that should not be ignored," Sun said.

But, he added that "in the past years, through friendly dialogue and consultations, our two countries have generally managed and effectively dealt with our differences on maritime issues and we have also advanced our practical cooperation and mutual trust."

On Thursday, diplomats from the both side convened for a two-day consultative meetings that aimed at discussing the Philippine-China bilateral relations as well as the two countries' dispute over the South China Sea.

This came as the two sides continue to fight for territorial sovereignty over the waters, with Manila consisently protesting the Chinese incursion into the internationally-recognized Philippine waters.

Lazaro said the Philippines believes strengthening the two countries' diplomatic relations, amid differences, "can be achieved through the exhaustion of all diplomatic means and through recently established communications mechanism."

"We need to properly deal with these issues through friendly consultations," Sun said, reiterating China's oft-repeated positions.