Bongbong Marcos visits China

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  • Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. flew to China on January 3, 2023 for a three-day state visit.

    Marcos said that he wants to boost bilateral ties between the Philippines and China.

    “As I leave for Beijing, I will be opening a new chapter in our comprehensive, strategic cooperation with China,” Marcos said before boarding his flight.

    “I look forward to my meeting with President Xi as we work towards shifting the trajectory of our relations to a higher gear that would hopefully bring numerous prospects and abundant opportunities for peace and development to the peoples of both our countries,” Marcos added.

    Alluding to the two countries’ territorial dispute in the South China Sea, Marcos said he looks forward to discussing bilateral and regional political and security issues.

    “The issues between our two countries are problems that do not belong between two friends such as Philippines and China,” Marcos added. “We will seek to resolve those issues to mutual benefit of our two countries.”

    China is ready to resume oil and gas talks with the Philippines and handle maritime issues in a friendly and consultative manner, Chinese President Xi told Marcos in Beijing on Wednesday (January 4), Chinese state television reported.

    Xi also said both countries should increase communication and cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and culture, according to the report.

    In 2018, China and the Philippines pledged to jointly explore oil and gas assets in the West Philippine Sea.

    But the talks failed and in June, before Marcos assumed the presidency, outgoing Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said discussions had been terminated as a result of constitutional limits and sovereignty issues.

    In response to Xi’s statement, Marcos said: “I really hope — I would very much like, as you have suggested, Mr. President — to be able to announce that we are continuing negotiations and that we hope that these negotiations will bear fruit. Because the pressure (is) upon not only China, not only the Philippines but the rest of the world to move away from the traditional fronts of power.”

    Speaking earlier with other Chinese leaders during his three-day state visit here, Marcos said Manila’s relationship with Beijing should not be defined by “difficulties” and “disagreements” on the West Philippine Sea.

    “I believe that this cannot be, we must not allow that [to be] the sum of our relationship… It is not the only relationship that we have with China. It is not over the South China Sea,” the President said during a meeting with Li Zhanshu, standing committee chair of China’s National People’s Congress, earlier Wednesday (January 4).

    “Our relationship extends to commerce, culture, education, investment, in trade and in every level,” Marcos noted.

    The Philippine leader said the partnership with Beijing in the next few years should “stabilize and strengthen all our economies so that we are able to face the challenges and the different shocks that now we are already been able to feel and continue to feel,” especially during the pandemic.

    He said he hoped China, as the Philippines’ biggest trading partner, “will continue to invest in the Philippines.”

    Total trade between China and the Philippines stood at $29.1 billion from January to September 2022, with exports amounting to $8.1 billion and imports at $21 billion, according to Malacañang.

    “We feel that we must strengthen those ties and we must strengthen the cooperation we have at every level,” Marcos said.

    After the meeting with Li, Marcos sat down with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and echoed his call for continued cooperation with Beijing.

    “It is important that these partnerships continue to be strong, continue to be encouraged. And I think that will be the way forward to the mutual benefit of our countries,” he told the Chinese premier.

    The president’s three-day state visit — his first foreign trip in 2023 — comes against a backdrop of a lingering maritime row with China in the South China Sea.

    China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea, along with its potential offshore oil and gas deposits and traditional fishing grounds.

    A 2016 ruling by an international arbitral tribunal recognized the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and exploit resources in the region, invalidating China’s sweeping historical claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

    During his first State of the Nation Address in July last year, Marcos said the Philippines would not yield “a single square inch” of territory to any foreign power.

    The president was accompanied by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his wife Liza Araneta-Marcos, his sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, his cousin Romualdez, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and Special Assistant to the President Secretary Anton Lagdameo during his meeting with Li.

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