At Washington forum, Marcos stresses 'friend to all, enemy to none' policy

At Washington forum, Marcos stresses 'friend to all, enemy to none' policy
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. meets with the Filipino community in Washington D.C. after his bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden on May 1, 2023 (US Time).
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will try to maintain good relations with China while reaffirming ties with the US, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said Friday in Washington.

Speaking at a forum organized by think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, Marcos said that the Philippines will balance relations with the two giant economies, adding "disengagement is not really an option."

He said: "In my first State of the Nation Address, I said the Philippines' foreign policy will keep the Philippines a friend to all and enemy to none. Our foreign policy is almost simplistic when I described it because our foreign policy is based on the pursuit of peace, our foreign policy is based on the promotion of our national interest."

Marcos said that moves towards defending the Philippines' territorial integrity and sovereignty are part of promoting that national interest.

The Philippines has been repairing ties with the US after the six years of the Duterte administration that saw then President Rodrigo Duterte at times hostile to the US and to the West. Duterte had even proposed an alliance among the Philippines, China and Russia.

Marcos has given US troops access to more Philippine military facilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and has hosted the biggest Balikatan exercises yet. The Philippines and US have also revived the Cope Thunder air combat exercises that used to be held annually during the Cold War.

Marcos also received Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Malacañang last month.

"It’s very, very useful and very, very productive that Minister Qin came here and that we were able to talk things a little bit through, make plans for the future, continue to work on growing the relationship between the Philippines and China, not only in the economic field but in the cultural and educational and other exchanges," Marcos said of the visit.

READ: Philippines, China to open more lines of communication

Open communications

Asked how he would maintain stable relations with China while insisting on Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, Marcos responded: "In the same way that we maintain our relationship with the US. We constantly consult with our allies and our partners. We constantly keep our lines of communications open."

The Philippines and China have agreed in principle to put up a direct line to better manage tension in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea. 

"And in that way, no matter if I cannot speak, for example, to President Xi himself, I have someone that I can pick up the phone and call who I know and I have confidence in making my message arrive to the president," he said.

"And this works of course, both ways. That is, if the president of the People's Republic would like a message to arrive to me, then we have a system in place to achieve that."

Both sides are still working on putting the hotline in place.

Tension over the West Philippine Sea was high in April after the Philippine Coast Guard reported incidents with Chinese ships.

China called the incident "a premeditated and provocative action for the Philippine vessel...to deliberately find fault and take the opportunity to hype up the incident."

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