PH, China agree to continue ‘friendly consultation’ amid clashing statements on arbitral ruling

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin meets with his Chinese counterpart following strong statements issued by the Philippines, China, and the US on the South China Sea arbitral ruling.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — The foreign ministers of the Philippines and China reaffirmed their countries’ friendship after releasing clashing statements on Manila’s arbitration win which the United States strongly backed.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi requested a virtual meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr., the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Their online meeting was held on Tuesday, marked by “open, cordial, and fruitful discussions," the DFA said, recognizing gains from their bilateral relations amid the long-standing dispute on the South China Sea.

“Both sides reaffirmed that contentious maritime issues are not the sum total of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship. With mutual respect, sincerity, and adherence to sovereign equality, both sides will continue to manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation,” the DFA added.

“Both sides agree to strengthen Philippines-China comprehensive strategic cooperation,” it added.

Locsin also reiterated that the two countries should continue the dialogue and cooperation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

State-run China Global Television Network quoted Wang as saying, "We need to cherish the hard-won friendly situation."

On the fourth anniversary of the arbitral ruling, Locsin called the landmark decision which China rejects as “non-negotiable.”

The 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims to almost the entire South China Sea. It largely favored the Philippines’ case against China and recognized Manila's sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone that Beijing claims.

“The Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms on this occasion its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change,” Locsin said.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila issued a statement maintaining that the arbitral ruling was “illegal and invalid.”

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also issued a strongly worded statement saying China’s sweeping claims to most of the South China Sea “are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

While the US does not claim any part of the global waterway, it conducts freedom of navigation operations and criticizes what it says is China's militarization of contested areas.

Former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the US sent a “very strong message” to China that it is supporting the Philippines and other Southeast Asian coastal states in protecting their exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea.