Philippines’ Marcos seeks ‘mutual benefit’ during China visit

Philippines’ Marcos seeks ‘mutual benefit’ during China visit

President Marcos says he will 'discuss political, security issues of bilateral and regional nature'

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ISTANBUL (AA) - Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday called for “mutual benefit” in relations with Beijing as he embarks on his first bilateral state visit to China.

Ahead of flying out from Manila to Beijing, Marcos Jr. said during a news conference streamed live that he looks “forward to discussing the political, security issues of our bilateral and regional nature.”

“The issues between our two countries or the problems that do not belong between two friends such as Philippines and China, we will seek to resolve those issues to the mutual benefit of our two countries,” Marcos said, adding the upcoming 48-hour-long trip will move towards “shifting the trajectory of our relations to a higher gear.”

It would be Marcos’ seventh foreign travel since he assumed the presidency last year.

Marcos said China was the first nation to respond to the needs of the Philippines in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crediting her mother and Philippines' former first lady Imelda Marcos for laying the ground for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing in the 1970s, Marcos recalled witnessing the “historic milestone” in the Philippines' foreign policy. He was accompanying her mother during the trip and later his father and former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. formally established Manila's relations with Beijing in June 1975.

Beijing and Manila, neighbors bound by the warm waters of the hotly contested South China Sea, have seen bilateral relations rise steadily as Beijing is now Manila’s largest trading partner.

However, the mineral-rich warm waters of the South China Sea have long been the subject of contention between China and some regional countries, including the Philippines, with the US siding with those who oppose China’s claims.

Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – all have coastlines on the South China Sea. Taiwan, which Beijing claims is a part of China, is also a claimant.

China’s claims are based on its "nine-dash line," which are purple dashes on official Chinese maps that represent Beijing's historical claims to the South China Sea.

However, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 that invalidated China's South China Sea expansion claims.

In Nov. 2002, China and ASEAN signed a Declaration on Conduct (DoC), an agreement on the South China Sea, marking China’s first acceptance of a multilateral agreement on the issue.

Marcos’s trip to Beijing comes a few weeks after the Philippines directed its soldiers to "strengthen" their presence in the South China Sea following reports of alleged new construction activities by China.

“Any encroachment in the West Philippines Sea or reclamation on the features therein is a threat to the security of Pag-asa Island, which is a part of Philippine sovereign territory,” the Philippines Department of Defense said last month.

“It also endangers the maritime environment, and undermines stability in the region,” it added.

The statement from the capital Manila came after media reports quoting unnamed "Western officials" claimed that China has engaged in fresh construction activities at Eldad Reef in the northern Spratlys.

Beijing, however, called the report "purely fabricated."

“Not to take action against uninhabited islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands is a solemn consensus reached by China and ASEAN countries in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and China has always strictly abided by it,” said Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry..

The report claimed: “New land formations have appeared above water over the past year at Eldad Reef in the northern Spratlys, with images showing large holes, debris piles and excavator tracks at a site that used to be only partially exposed at high tide.”

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