MANILA -- Senior defense and military officials of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China on Friday conducted talks to bolster the two nations’ bilateral defense cooperation.

Defense public affairs office chief, Arsenio Andolong, said the Philippine delegation was led by Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo A. David Jr.

David’s group met with Rear Adm. Jiang Guoping, Assistant Chief of General Staff of China’s Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and other senior CMC officials, as both sides resume the Annual Defense Security Talks (ADST).

The ADST is the bilateral dialogue mechanism between the Philippines and China, which was established under the purview of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation.

Since 2005, four ADSTs have been alternately hosted by the two countries, with the last held in Beijing in 2013.

Andolong said the 5th ADST provided both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the current regional security situation and flesh out concrete plans to cooperate in addressing security concerns mutually faced by the Philippines and China.

Specifically, the discussions underscored defense cooperation in addressing non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism and violent extremism, as well as man-made and natural disasters.

The Philippines and China also agreed to increase cooperation in the area of training and education, not only to share expertise and best practices, but also foster friendly relations between both peoples.

The talks also emphasized the importance of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) for the region’s economic growth and development.

Along this line, both sides expressed support for the peaceful settlement of disputes through lawful, non-coercive, and transparent means.

The Philippine side likewise expressed optimism that the adoption of the Framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) last August has brought the two nations closer to the long-sought conclusion of a binding and meaningful COC.

In conclusion, both sides expressed confidence that with avenues for open and substantive dialogue, such as the ADST, the Philippines and China would be able to further cooperate and manage differences towards contributing to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous region. (PNA)