China, PH vow to respect 2002 declaration on Spratlys

BEIJING (MindaNews/11 July) – Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario described his two-day visit here as a success citing the agreement of the two countries to settle the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea by abiding with the guidelines that China and member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations signed in 2002.

Del Rosario, who briefly faced foreign journalists at the St. Regis Hotel near the Philippine Embassy on late Friday afternoon, said “yes” when asked if his visit to China was a success.

The secretary said that both countries had renewed their intention to bring stability in the Spratlys amid tensions that started several months ago.

“Both Ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Del Rosario said referring to his meeting with Vice President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

“The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002,” he said, adding, “both Ministers agreed to further strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and to fully implement the Joint Action Plan.”

Earlier, the Philippine government had accused China of building up its presence in the disputed Spratly Islands, and firing at Philippine fishing boats.

China maintained that the area had always been their territory since time immemorial, and that they did not violate any nation’s sovereignty.

Del Rosario met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month over the Spratlys issue.

Philippine and US naval units have been deployed to the Spratlys, apparently to deter the Chinese from making further moves in the purportedly oil-rich islands.

Despite the word war, the Philippines and China said they are determined to resolve the issue through continuing dialogues.

In a joint statement, the two countries said they “agreed that maintaining healthy and stable development of bilateral ties serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and meets the common aspiration of the two peoples.”

“The two sides gave positive assessment of the progress made over the past 36 years since China and the Philippines established diplomatic relations including the broad range of state-to-state cooperation involving the different branches of government and various sectors of society.”

“They reviewed the progress of the implementation of the Joint Action Plan (JAP) for Strategic Cooperation signed on 29 October 2009. The two countries will maintain close political cooperation including high-level visits and defense and security cooperation,” the joint statement added.

Del Rosario and Jiechi also discussed enhancing trade and investments, cooperation in science and technology, agriculture and fisheries, food safety, human health, infrastructure and transportation.

The two sides touched the need to improve cultural and people-to-people exchanges including twinning or sister-city arrangements, tourism, education, and media cooperation, and the need for an increased collaboration in the fight against transnational crimes including drug and human trafficking and the protection of nationals.

Del Rosario’s visit here is a positive step towards a peaceful resolution of the territorial issue between the Philippines and China, according to Ron Ying, vice president of the China Institute for International Studies.

“There should be continuing dialogues, and that’s the only way to solve the problem,” he said.

Del Rosario said his trip will also pave the way for the planned visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III to China in late August or early September.

Noel M. Novicio, first secretary and consul of the Philippine Embassy here, said that Beijing had always wanted Aquino to visit China since his installation last year. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/MindaNews)