China and Philippines agree to enhance maritime communication amid South China Sea dispute

Both nations acknowledged that the South China Sea dispute is just one aspect of their bilateral relations, emphasizing the importance of maintaining communication to ensure maritime peace and stability.

China and the Philippines have reached an agreement to enhance maritime communication and manage conflicts diplomatically in the South China Sea, as stated by their foreign ministries. During the eighth meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea in Shanghai, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong and Philippines Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro discussed the situation extensively.

Both nations acknowledged that the South China Sea dispute is just one aspect of their bilateral relations, emphasizing the importance of maintaining communication to ensure maritime peace and stability. Recent confrontations in disputed waters have escalated tensions, with accusations between the two countries, including an incident where China allegedly rammed a ship carrying the Philippine armed forces chief of staff. China has defended its actions, describing them as “professional, reasonable, and legal.”

China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the exclusive economic zones of neighbouring countries. The joint statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry highlighted the commitment of both officials to calmly handle incidents through diplomacy and manage conflicts through friendly consultations.

Particular attention was given to the Second Thomas Shoal, known as Renai Reef in China, and Ayungin in Manila. Both sides presented their positions on Ayungin Shoal, expressing a mutual commitment to prevent the escalation of tensions in the area. The South China Sea has witnessed heated encounters involving Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels as China intensifies its maritime claims.

Despite strained relations, both China and the Philippines reiterated their dedication to dialogue and pledged to advance practical maritime cooperation. The goal is to create favourable conditions for the stable development of China-Philippines relations. However, recent tensions were further fueled when China summoned the Philippine ambassador, cautioning against playing with fire after Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. congratulated Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te. The exchange led to accusations, with China demanding adherence to the one-China principle.

In response, the Philippines affirmed its commitment to the one-China policy and its continued implementation. The diplomatic engagement between China and the Philippines reflects a complex geopolitical landscape in the South China Sea, where competing territorial claims and strategic interests intersect. The agreement to manage disputes through dialogue is a step toward de-escalation, but the region remains a focal point for geopolitical tensions.