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The Philippines and China kicked off on Thursday highly anticipated talks on the South China Sea and the two nations' overall bilateral relations, the first onsite meetings of their kind since the pandemic struck, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

The 23rd Philippine-China Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) opened on March 23 and will be followed by the 7th Bilateral Consultations Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea on March 24.

The meetings come on the heels of the latest developments in the West Philippine Sea, which saw the Philippines protesting and raising concern over Chinese actions near Ayungin Shoal and most recently, the massing of more than 40 suspected “Chinese maritime militia vessels” off Pagasa Island.


At the opening session of both meetings in Manila on Thursday, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong reiterated the need for the two states to “follow the important consensus” reached between President Xi Jinping and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in January and properly deal with differences through talks.

“We need to comprehensively deepen our comprehensive strategic cooperation and enhance cooperation in various practical areas and properly deal with our differences through friendly consultation,” he said. “We need to keep to the general direction of friendly relations between our two countries."

Sun said Manila and Beijing would have an “in-depth” conversation on maritime-related issues during the BCM the next day and expressed hope that the FMC would “lay a favorable atmosphere for tomorrow's discussions.”

“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 and cooperation, communication and coordination to jointly uphold our shared interests and peace and stability of the region,” he said.


Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro, who is leading the Philippine delegation, said Manila continues to attach importance to the two mechanisms and looks forward to working with the ministry to implement the consensus.

“We hope to translate the outcomes of the state visit into concrete and high-impact engagements that are mutually beneficial for our two peoples or two countries and peoples. I look forward to working with you Mr. Vice Minister, to sustain the growth in our corporations,” she told Sun.

In a previous statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said discussions during the two meetings will cover a range of issues, including economic, people-to-people, maritime, security, and regional matters.

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