Philippines and China will start next week the bilateral talks on the South China Sea dispute.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana made the announcement during a press conference in Beijing on Saturday.

“By next week we will inaugurate the bilateral consultative mechanism on issues. This is where the sensitive issues will be discussed,” Sta. Romana said.

The envoy said the mechanism may be initiated by the end of next week or on May 19. He said the venue of the talks is in southwestern China.

Sta. Romana said President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping will not participate in the initial bilateral talks.

“The first session will really cover the terms of reference and the basic. Try to draw an agenda so the first session will be the long step in the long journey… What it provides is a platform, a mechanism to bring out the issue,” he said.

The talks will take place after Duterte’s visit in China this week.

He is expected to arrive late Saturday in China, where he is expected to participate in the “One Belt, One Road” forum.

Duterte is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Xi during his second visit in Beijing.

Sta. Romana said the issue of the South China Sea might be discussed, along with other topics, during the bilateral meeting.

Source: GMA News