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Like Duterte, Marcos Jr. says to 'increase scope' of ties with China beyond sea dispute

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — In an apparent continuation of the Duterte administration's foreign policy, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he wants to "increase the scope" of the country's relationship with China beyond the issues in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos Jr. is set to meet with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he visits the Philippines. Wang will be visiting Southeast Asian countries from July 3 to 14. 

While the Philippines is on Wang’s itinerary, no date has been announced for his visit.

Marcos Jr. said their meeting will be focused on finding "ways 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 — the West Philippine Sea. Let’s add to that. Let’s have cultural exchanges, educational exchanges, even military if that will be useful," Marcos Jr. said in a press briefing at Malacañan on Tuesday afternoon.

He also mentioned working with "important actor(s)" of regional geopolitics such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

This statement comes a day after broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Chinese Coast Guard warned Philippine boats on a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre stationed at the Ayungin Shoal of “consequences” if the Philippines start any “trouble.” 

Marcos Jr. did not mention the incident on Tuesday.

READ: Government urged to call out China 'warning' vs Filipino ships in Ayungin Shoal

Beijing has been ignoring a 2016 tribunal ruling that invalidated its claims over the West Philippine Sea and its resources. 

Marcos Jr. earlier said that he would uphold the ruling and the Philippines will “assert [its] territorial rights.”

READ: 'We can't go to war with China': Marcos echoes Duterte on West Philippine Sea

On Tuesday, the new president said he plans to expand the country’s relationship with China to include discussions in other sectors, such as introducing more government-to-government agreements and joint ventures through the private sector, to resolve the issue.

China is already one of the Philippine government’s partners in the previous administration’s infrastructure projects through its “Build, Build, Build” programs.

"It’s essentially always trying to find ways to improve relationships and we have many proposals to them in the sense that as I said, we would like for us to increase the scope," Marcos Jr. said.

"'Wag lang yung West Philippine Sea ‘yung pinag-uusapan ng China at Pilipinas (Discussions of China and the Philippines should not only revolve around the West Philippine Sea). Let’s do other things too and that way it will normalize our relationship," he added.

The Philippines has filed more than 230 diplomatic protests over China’s illegal activities over the disputed waters since 2016, which include protests against Beijing’s annual fishing ban that covers even parts of the West Philippine Sea and Chinese vessels shadowing Philippine boats within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

BONGBONG MARCOS

CHINA

PHILIPPINES

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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