By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a joint conference at the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 20, 2023. (Screengrab from German Foreign Office video)

MANILA – The Philippines remains committed to diplomacy and dialogue in resolving disputes in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Monday.

During a joint conference following a bilateral meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Manalo said it has always been the country’s stand in spite of the “recent or ongoing actions which are inconsistent with United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of Sea and the 2002 Declaration”.

“We are one with Germany, in the rule of law in supporting all states to uphold a rules-based international order and the need for all states to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, and in accordance with international law,” Manalo said.

“Since then, Germany has also continued to support the principles enshrined in the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea and has supported negotiations and work being done between ASEAN and China in the adoption of a code of conduct with the South China Sea,” he added.

Earlier, a Chinese security vessel was accused of pointing a military-grade laser at a Philippine patrol boat which is about 20 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. called on Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to express serious concern on Beijing’s “increasing frequency and intensity of actions” in the area.

Baerbock said Germany stands up for the international law and the peaceful settlement of conflict in the Indo-Pacific Region and in the South China Sea.

“In concrete terms, this means that whenever a country asserts maritime claims, it is first and foremost in the framework of international law in this particular case in the framework of the UN. Convention on the Law of the Sea, that these claims need to be clarified,” she said.

She noted that the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Germany covers a broad field of cooperation.

It includes climate change initiatives, renewable energy, human rights conflict and people-to-people connections.

“The cooperation in the field of qualified and skilled labor is an area that we intend to expand and enhance in Germany. It’s the most important trading partner of the Philippines in the European Union,” she said.

“Thousand of skilled and qualified personnel from the Philippines work in Germany, as I said, and we felt you the expertise and the qualifications of these people. Their support has been very enriching for many people also on a personal level,” she added.

Baerbock also sees opportunities on renewable energies and is, in fact, providing about PHP2 billion to develop this area of cooperation.

“Already today we are supporting you by making available more than 50 million euros and we also plan to further intensify our cooperation this year and take it to the senior level for the very first time this year,” she said.

Manalo said the Philippine government is looking forward to enhance its relationship with Germany in all the mentioned areas to continue their work with German counterparts on certain issues. (PNA)