The Philippines Looks to Ease Tensions Over South China Sea

After struggling with crippling relations tied to the South China Sea issue, the Philippines may be looking to back off on Beijing. The country’s acting Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo says the territorial issue will be raised during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila from Wednesday to Saturday, and carry on over into later meetings among the 10-member bloc.

He says Manila is also working on completing a framework for a code of conduct to minimize maritime issues.

“We will try stressing the importance of promoting or at least managing tensions and disputes peacefully and through diplomatic means,” Manalo told reporters. “We acknowledge that differences exist, but that does not mean the whole relationship should be affected by that, because we also have good economic relationships and people to people exchanges.”

In May, the Philippines plans to initiate a bilateral consultation mechanism between the two countries.

“They will be dealing with technical issues, but on a political high-level, a meeting between national leaders,” he said. “It’s a very good opportunity for us and China to raise issues. We can now talk face to face in an atmosphere that we can solve differences peacefully. The mechanism is partly one attempt to see how we can now talk about this difference [on the South China Sea].”

Beijing claims virtually all the South China Sea in conflict with several of its neighbors. Tensions between China and The Philippines have soured especially after Manila took the issue to an international court, where it was ruled that China’s claims were illegitimate. Beijing chose to ignore the ruling and has raised tensions by establishing artificial islands capable of housing military personnel and weaponry.

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