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Marcos vows to end conflicts with China

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Read this in The Manila Times digital edition.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. holds a press briefing at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace. Screengrab photo from Facebook

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. holds a press briefing at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace. Screengrab photo from Facebook

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he will “find ways to resolve the conflicts” with China when he meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Marcos said he plans to “strengthen ties between China and the Philippines” during the meeting.

“Yes, I will meet with him and the agenda I’m sure will be to strengthen ties between China and the Philippines. And of course to find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have,” he said.

Marcos expressed openness on “exchanges” between Manila and Beijing to include discussions in other sectors, such as introducing more government-to-government agreements and joint ventures through the private sector, to resolve issues between the two countries.

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China is already one of the Philippine government’s partners in the previous administration’s infrastructure projects through Manila’s Build, Build, Build program.

“One of the ways that I have consistently suggested is that we have our relationship not only on one dimension, ‘yun lang (only the) West Philippine Sea [dispute]. Let’s add to that. Let’s have cultural exchanges, educational exchanges, even military if that will be useful,” Marcos said.

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“Of course, the G2G (government-to-government relationship) has always been there, and the private sector joint ventures have also been there. But I think that the more we do with that, the more it will help resolve the issues,” he added.

The President called on the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as well as of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation “to be active” in terms of “trying to find ways to improve relationships” because they, being “stakeholders,” are important players in regional geopolitics.

“They are stakeholders in this. So I think we can say that we need for those — for them, for Asean, especially to be active for their member countries. It’s essentially always trying to find ways to improve relationships,” Marcos said.

“And we have many proposals to them in the sense that as I said we would like for us to increase the scope. Huwag lang ‘yung West Philippine Sea [South China Sea] ang pinag-uusapan ng China at saka Pilipinas (China and the Philippines should not limit talks to the West Philippine Sea). Let’s do other things too. In that way, it will normalize our relationship,” he added.

Manila and Beijing have long been locked in a dispute over areas of the South China Sea — almost all of which China insists it has exclusive rights to, rejecting a 2016 The Hague ruling that its historical claims were without basis.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte fostered warmer ties with the Philippines’ more powerful neighbor by setting aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment, which critics say have not materialized.

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Marcos, during a recent event of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, said he will continue Duterte’s “independent foreign policy.”

“This is what we feel is best in the national interest, and I feel it is to be advantageous not only to our friends in China but to all our friends around the world,” he had said.

Philippine alliances with other countries, according to the President, would “keep the stability of our economic recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That cooperation is what I believe will bring us forward to a bright future…. We can only do it with our partners. And our strongest partner has always been, in that regard, our close neighbor and our good friend, the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

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