China, Philippines need to deal with differences through friendly consultations – Chinese Vice Foreign Minister

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — Philippine and Chinese officials kicked off their back-to-back consultative meetings on Thursday to discuss the different aspects of Manila-Beijing relations, including the South China Sea dispute.

The 23rd Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) was held face-to-face for the first time after three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong led their respective delegations during the meeting, which focused on the overall relations between the two countries, and a follow-up on the "consensus" made during the meeting of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping in January.

“We need to properly deal with our differences through friendly consultation and we need to keep the general direction of friendship relations between the two countries,” Sun said in his opening statement.

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Sun added that both countries should deepen cooperation and maintain lines of communication to maintain shared interests, peace, and stability in the region.

“In light of this fast-changing international landscape, China stands ready to work with countries in the neighborhood including the Philippines to enhance our solidarity, cooperation, communication, and coordination to jointly uphold our shared interests for peace and stability of the region,” Sun added.

For the Philippines, Lazaro said maritime issues do not define the overall relations between the two countries.

“Maritime issues do not constitute the whole of our relations as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on more than one occasion. We should be using the Foreign Ministry Consultations more often,” Lazaro said. “We look forward to utilizing these consultations to implement the consensus between our two leaders during the highly successful state visit last January.”

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PH among first to benefit from Chinese economic plans

Sun gave his assurance to the Philippines that China will provide opportunities to Manila as they seek continued development and modernization.

As the world’s second-largest economy, China said it has made plans for its targets and tasks for this year’s economic and social development.

“China will stay committed to the development philosophy that is people-centered and focus on promoting high-quality development and stay committed to deepening reform and opening up,” Sun said.

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“We will provide new opportunities to the world with our development and countries in the neighborhood like the Philippines will be the first to benefit from such opportunities,” Sun added.

Philippine and Chinese officials will meet again on Friday for the 7th Bilateral Consultations Mechanism (BCM) which will focus on issues involving maritime disputes and the South China Sea.

The Philippine government won an arbitration case in 2016 at The Hague, refuting China’s historic claims in the West Philippine Sea.

China, however, said that the arbitral award was illegal, null, and void.