PH, China establish hotline for coast guard diplomacy

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

(file photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — The Philippine and Chinese coast guards have established round-the-clock direct communication to promote cooperation in the disputed South China Sea, officials said Monday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) met with their Chinese counterparts in their first high-level security visit in Zhanjiang, China from October 30 to November 2, the PCG said in a statement.

"Both Coastguards agreed to promote the atmosphere of partnership and cooperation in the whole of South China Sea. This means that when the two Coast Guards meet in the SCS, they would be able now to communicate with each other in a fashionable, friendly, and cooperative manner," the statement said.

The PCG said that the Philippine and China Coast Guards established the Hotline Communication Mechanism on an operational and tactical level as part of their security and law enforcement cooperation.

The Chinese Ministry of Transport's Maritime Rescue Coordinating Council offered a donation of hotline communication equipment, "which would provide real time 24/7 communication between the two agencies using radio communications and video conferencing," the PCG said.

"This was the offshoot of the promotion of peace, stability, and good order in South China Sea ahead of the ASEAN Summit," said the PCG. The visit of the coast guard to the Maritime Search and Rescue Field Exercise in Zhanjiang was led by Officer-in-Charge Commodore Joel S. Garcia.

In recent days, President Rodrigo Duterte has sounded a conciliatory tone over the South China Sea, reiterating that cooperation, not confrontation with China was the only way to move forward.

READ: Duterte: South China Sea issue 'better left untouched'

Both parties also agreed to observe the Declaration of Conduct of 2002 in South China Sea including the applicable international laws, maritime conventions, and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The statement comes on the sidelines of the 20th ASEAN-China Summit on Monday.

ASEAN leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced the start of negotiations on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

A draft framework for the COC was adopted by ASEAN foreign ministers and China in August 2017.

The PCG and the Chinese Coast Guard also agreed to allow their counterparts to visit their respective ports to conduct security and law enforcement training to boost efforts to crack down on maritime crime such as piracy and the transport of illegal drugs.

"As these develop, the Philippines now can foresee a friendly partnership and cooperation in promoting good order and peace with China without the veil of suspicion, attitude of animosity, and belligerency," the statement added.

In a press briefing at the ASEAN, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the measure promotes the two countries' relations.

"I think that's pursuant to their commitment that they will further enhance their relationship and that they will resort to negotiation rather than the use of force," he said.

Four ASEAN countries—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei—also claim parts of the South China Sea, along with China and Taiwan.

Tensions among the South China Sea claimants have been simmering since July 2016, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines. The Philippines argued that China's "nine-dash line" maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China has refused to recognize the tribunal's ruling.

The "nine-dash line" is China's purported historical boundary that covers about 85 percent of the South China Sea, including 80 percent of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.