West Philippine Sea

Marcos wants to talk West Philippine Sea with Xi Jinping

Bea Cupin
Marcos wants to talk West Philippine Sea with Xi Jinping

Key officials in Indonesia welcome President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Marcos as they arrive in Jakarta. Office of the President/Facebook

Office of the President/Facebook

'These kinds of discussion, especially with the West Philippine Sea, I'm hoping to do that with the Chinese President,' says President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday, November 9, that he’s keen on bringing up the country’s position on territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Cambodia and, more importantly, in a future discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

“I think the Code of Conduct is medyo natutulog eh (has not moved forward), it’s not really moving forward. Maybe we can [talk about the West Philippine Sea] using that, the Code of Conduct,” said Marcos in a chance interview with media on board PR001 en route to Phnom Penh, where the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit will be held. 

Marcos wants to talk West Philippine Sea with Xi Jinping

Marcos, who is attending a regional summit for the first time as head of state, said creating a Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China is key. The problem is, there is none. 

“The problem is that ASEAN has many different positions also. That’s the first part, if we’re going to come up with a Code of Conduct, we have to come up with the same position,” he added. 

ASEAN is composed of 10 member states in the Southeast Asian region. The Philippines is among the founding members, alongside Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Membership has since included Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Timor Leste is an observer state but has yet to be granted membership into the group, considered among the key geopolitical entities in the region. 

But ASEAN’s strength is also its pitfall. Consensus from all members must be reached for it to issue any position or statement. 

Several members of ASEAN have disputes with China over areas in the South China Se, although their approaches and tactics differ. 

But Marcos wants a more direct approach when it comes to West Philippine Sea or South China Sea disputes: a discussion with his Chinese counterpart. 

“These kinds of discussion, especially with the West Philippine Sea, I’m hoping to do that with the Chinese President. It’s impossible for me to talk about China without mentioning [the West Philippine Sea],” added Marcos. 

The Philippine President has yet to meet Xi, although he had earlier extended his congratulations over securing a historic third term in power.

Marcos recently appointed retired Beijing-based journalist Jaime FlorCruz as envoy to China. 

The Philippines’ relations with China have been through many ups and downs. In the administration of the late Benigno Aquino III, relations turned icy as his administration led the charge and won an arbitration ruling before an international tribunal. 

Relations warmed under former president Rodrigo Duterte, who publicly lambasted Western powers while openly showing his preference for China. 

Marcos, thus far, has taken a different path. During a recent working visit to the US, Marcos had overt pledges to strengthen Philippine-US ties. He had said that he’s open to all approaches when it comes to the West Philippine Sea, be it via multilateral or bilateral talks. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.