Bongbong Marcos wants PH-China ties to go beyond West PH Sea disputes

A map of the West Philippine Sea is shown and Bongbong Marcos said Tuesday PH-China ties should go beyond the sea dispute.

The West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — If it were up to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., he would prefer the relationship between the Philippines and China not to be limited to the West Philippine Sea.

In his first press briefing since assuming his post, Marcos Jr. expressed openness on “exchanges” between Manila and Beijing, specifically including the areas of education and military.

He said his goal is to “find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have” because he does not want the two countries’ relationship to be just confined to the West Philippine Sea issues.

Marcos Jr. disclosed that he is set to meet with China’s top diplomat, Chinese State Councilor, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“I will meet with him and the agenda I’m sure will be to strengthen ties with China and the Philippines and of course to find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have. One of the ways I have consistently suggested is that we have our relationship not only on one dimension – ‘yun lang West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“Let’s add to that. Let’s have cultural, educational, and even military if that will be useful… In the private sector, joint ventures have also been there. The more we do that, the more it will help resolve the issue,” he added.

The West Philippine Sea – and China’s vast claims over the area – is one of the issues that the administration of Marcos Jr. should face.

Earlier, Marcos Jr. said that he would uphold a 2016 decision by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that favored the Philippines in its case against China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

Back in May, Marcos Jr. said: “Our sovereignty is sacred and we will not compromise it in any way.”

READ: Marcos to assert Hague ruling

In 2013, the Philippines, under the Aquino administration, challenged in The Hague court China’s claim that it owned more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, including waters in the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

In 2016, two weeks after then-President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, the tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law. It added that Beijing violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

READ: PH wins arbitration case over South China Sea

China, however, has consistently refused to acknowledge the historic PCA ruling.