PH, China promise to protect sovereignty, sovereign rights in bilateral talks

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Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — The Philippines and China agreed to cooperate on areas of marine protection and research while following each countries' stance on territorial powers.

"Both sides also had productive exchange of views on ways to strengthen cooperation in areas such as marine environmental protection, fisheries, marine scientific research, and oil and gas, without prejudice to their respective positions on sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction," the Tuesday statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) read.

DFA previously announced that it has allowed China to conduct research on Benham Rise, 135 kilometers off the coast of Aurora. This exploration drew criticism since China refused to comply with the arbitral ruling on the Philippines' rights to the disputed South China Sea.

Benham Rise is an undersea plateau, which is part of the Philippines' extended continental shelf and the country's exclusive economic zone.

But China's foreign ministry clarified that the research was not done in Benham Rise, adding it respects the Philippines' sovereign rights over "relevant waters."

READ: China: Research in PH not in Benham Rise

Manila and Beijing met on Tuesday for the second time to continue bilateral consultations on the South China Sea.

DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo represented the Philippines, while Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou represented China.

Both countries highlighted the importance of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM), which started in May 19 2017.

"With the objective of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region, both sides discussed ways to manage and prevent incidents at sea, promote dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, and enhance mutual trust and confidence," the joint statement added.

Both countries also reiterated their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as well as the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in relation to the maritime row.

The statement did not mention anything about the ongoing militarization in the disputed waters, after photos from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that China has finished building vertical structures in three of the contested islets in the Spratlys' Island Group.

READ: Vertical structures built on reefs in S. China Sea — Inquirer reporter

The third BCM meeting will be held in China in the second half of 2018.