Philippines-China relations

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy sees ‘similar challenges’ in Manila’s China problem  

Bea Cupin

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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy sees ‘similar challenges’ in Manila’s China problem  

HIGH-PROFILE MEETING. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Malacañang to meet President Marcos Jr. PPA pool

PPA pool

The Ukrainian president says his country's win would send a 'signal' to other nations which might want to do what Russia is doing

MANILA, Philippines – Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, June 3, said he saw “a lot of similar things and a lot of challenges” between his country’s hardships under Russia and the challenges Manila faces from Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

Zelenskyy was in Manila for a quick visit to personally invite President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to a Ukraine peace summit in mid-June that will take place in Switzerland. Marcos has reportedly said yes to the invitation following a bilateral meeting with the Ukrainian president, even if Manila had earlier not committed to participating in it.

But in speaking about the Philippines’ challenges in the West Philippine Sea, or part of the South China Sea that includes its exclusive economic zone, Zelenskyy put the focus back on his homeland.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy sees ‘similar challenges’ in Manila’s China problem  

“We need unity because if Ukraine falls down, if Russia occupies us totally in this war, we will see this war in other continents. It could be in your direction, in your region. It’s a big tragedy. A lot of casualties,” said Zelenskyy, fresh off an hour-long bilateral meeting in Malacañang Palace.

Then he zoomed out – a Ukrainian victory sends a signal to “other countries,” Zelenskyy told GMA News’ Mariz Umali. “If we will stay strong, it will mean that it will give [a] very important signal to other countries not to try, even to think how to occupy other independent countries,” he said.

In Singapore, during a surprise address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Zelenskyy criticized China’s support for Russia in supposedly trying to undermine the upcoming peace summit.

Pundits and observers have also criticized China for reportedly supplying Russia with components critical to its assault of Ukraine, even as the Asian giant has made calls to support other nations’ sovereignty and territory.

Manila has been facing challenges on its sovereign rights and sovereignty claims from China out at sea. Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, in defiance of a 2016 Arbitral Ruling that deemed its claim illegal.

The situation in parts of the West Philippine Sea are tense at best and dangerous at worst. The China Coast Guard has been using its water cannons to foil Philippine vessels on supply missions in Ayungin Shoal and Panatag Shoal.

Manila has said that it would not retaliate with water cannons, while saying the death of a Filipino would prompt it to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

Neither Ukraine nor Manila have indicated that the West Philippine Sea was a topic of discussion during meeting of Marcos and Zeleskyy. But the Ukrainian leader said they spoke about humanitarian aid, Ukraine’s cyber security experience, and the Philippines’ readiness to provide medical aid and mental health support for Ukrainians.

Zelenskyy visited Manila right after speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. –

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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.