03 April 2019 – China and the Philippines convened the Fourth Meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on 02-03 April 2019 in Manila. The Chinese delegation was led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, and the Philippine delegation was led by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo LB. Montealegre of the Office of Asian and Pacific Affairs. As in the Third Meeting of the BCM in October 2018, the Fourth BCM comprised equivalent officials from the respective foreign ministries and relevant agencies.

Recalling the Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines issued on 21 November 2018, wherein both sides agreed to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and noted the importance of confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence, both sides affirmed the importance of the BCM as a venue for enhanced and regular dialogue. Both sides also noted the significance of the BCM as a platform for pursuing measures to increase mutual trust and confidence. In this regard, both sides acknowledged that the BCM, as a forum for raising differences with a view to address them, preventing and properly managing incidents at sea, and enhancing maritime dialogue and cooperation, can play a significant role in the stable and steady development of bilateral relations.

In a frank yet cordial and constructive manner, both sides raised specific issues and recent developments and actions in the South China Sea which have raised concerns to either side, and proposed ways to address them in a cooperative manner. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate and to continue to find ways forward to strengthen mutual trust and confidence.

Both sides reiterated that while the contentious issues in the South China Sea should not be ignored, they are not the sum total of China-Philippine relations and should not exclude mutually beneficial cooperation in other fields. Both sides also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting regional peace and stability, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea. Both sides reiterated their commitment to address disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Both sides likewise agreed that their bilateral relations should serve the interests of the Filipino and Chinese peoples and contribute to peace, stability, and development in the region.

Both sides had a productive exchange of views on ways to enhance maritime cooperation in areas such as on recent developments in the South China Sea carrying political and security implications, maritime search and rescue, maritime safety, marine environmental protection/marine scientific research, and fisheries in relevant Working Group meetings under the framework of the BCM. Without prejudice to their respective positions on sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, both sides exchanged views on oil and gas development.

The two sides also recognized the importance of other complementary multilateral platforms, including China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, ASEAN Regional Forum, and East Asia Summit, in promoting peace and stability in the region. Both sides reiterated their commitments to full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and agreed to maintain the positive momentum of the negotiations towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, based on consensus.

Both sides considered the meeting fruitful and productive. The Fifth Meeting of the BCM will be held in China in the second half of 2019, with the exact date and place to be determined and mutually agreed upon through diplomatic channels.

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