Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana answers question from Philippine media delegation in a press briefing held at the Philippine Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday (April 24, 2019). (Photo by Kris Crismundo)
BEIJING -- Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a general review on the current state of the Philippines-China bilateral relations as well as exchange views on regional and international issues.
In a press briefing here, Sta. Romana said from the past meetings of the two leaders, their discussions include the situation and concerns in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
Duterte and Xi are set to have their bilateral meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF). The Chief Executive left Manila on Wednesday afternoon and will be in Beijing until April 27 for the BRF at the invitation of Xi.
Sta. Romana added that the issues in the troubled waters are very contentious for the Philippines and China as the two governments have different views and positions.
He noted that Manila and Beijing launched Bilateral Consultative Meeting (BCM) in 2017 to resolve these issues and are continuing their diplomatic negotiations.
“So, the basic approach is to discuss the disputes, to manage it, so that they will not turn into crisis. And also to manage it so that they will not be an obstacle to the development of areas of cooperation,” the envoy said.
“The disputes do not define everything; they are only a part of the overall picture,” he added.
He noted that the cooperation between the Philippines and China in other areas such as trade, investment, science and technology, among others are moving in a fast pace.
In fact, Filipino businessmen are also here in this city to sign agreements worth more than USD10 billion.
Moreover, the envoy stressed that the embassy here maintains its two-track approach in its diplomatic relations with Beijing -- by managing disputes and maximizing cooperation.
“The real issue is how to avoid any miscalculation, how to avoid any conflict, and how to deescalate and to exercise restraint so that the issue will not become a crisis and so that it will not become a situation that will obstruct the positive trajectory,” Sta. Romana said.
“The diplomatic action is to take them on their word but verify and keep your vigilance high. So, trust but verify. This is our attitude. We welcome any reassurance that there will be no act of force against our people, against our soldiers, but at the same time we have to remain vigilant. We combine diplomacy with deterrence,” he added.
Commenting on the incident of Chinese vessels harvesting giant clams in the West Philippine Sea, Sta. Romana said it is “a major issue of concern”.
“The [harvesting of] clams is a major issue of concern. Because this has been an issue before 2016 and it’s a continuing issue. And it’s a major issue in terms of marine environment,” the envoy said.
“And Chinese [government], based on their own mass media, supposedly declared fishing, sale, and use in manufacturing giant clams since January 2017 is illegal. So there should be an issue of accountability. If that is the case, how come this is happening? And that is an issue that we are continuing to discuss,” he added. (PNA)