Philippines, China agree to ease tensions in South China Sea

Diplomats from the Philippines and China have agreed to improve a bilateral maritime communication mechanism amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

The foreign ministries of the two countries held a regular meeting in Manila on Tuesday to discuss matters related to the South China Sea. The Philippine foreign ministry said its Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong attended.

The two sides discussed the Second Thomas Shoal, and agreed to deescalate tensions without harming their respective positions.

Both sides also signed an agreement to enhance a communication mechanism on the South China Sea between the two countries.

They said they plan to continue dialogue to seek mutually acceptable solutions, saying significant differences remain.

The Philippines and China have been at odds over the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. The shoal is effectively controlled by Manila and claimed by Beijing.

Last month, Philippine military and China Coast Guard ships collided in the area. Chinese personnel boarded the Philippine vessels and took firearms and other items. It was the first time that Chinese authorities conducted such a maritime inspection.