Committed to resolving South China Sea issue peacefully: Philippines

Indo Asian News Service

Manila, March 29 (IANS) The Philippines on Wednesday said it was committed to resolving the South China Sea issue peacefully.

"We are firmly committed to our position for a peaceful settlement of disputes and one that is in accordance with the rule of law," Foreign Assistant Secretary Charles Jose was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

China and the Philippines will hold the first meeting of a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue in May.

Jose said the bilateral consultation mechanism is significant because it will provide a venue for both China and the Philippines to discuss the dispute in a peaceful manner.

He said both sides are looking forward to the May meeting.

"Both sides are discussing on the specific dates and we have no agreement yet on the substantive agenda as well as the level of the meeting. These are being discussed now," Jose said.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China is willing to strengthen dialogue with the Philippines to properly manage and control divergences and advance maritime cooperation to create a favourable atmosphere for pragmatic cooperation as well as the sound and stable development of ties.

The Philippines and China are among the five countries which lay claim to the energy-rich South China Sea. Trade worth $5 trillion passes through the waterways of this contested region.

Manila approached the UN-appointed court in 2013 after China occupied Scarborough Shoal. The court last year ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China's claims on the South China Sea.