Marcos on PH-China relations: ‘Disengagement not an option’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines continues to pursue relations with China despite acknowledging “intimidation” from Chinese forces in the contested waters.

“The same way that we maintain our relationship with the US,” Marcos said when asked about the “elephant in the room” on how he can maintain a stable relationship with Beijing while still protecting the Philippines.

“We constantly consult with our allies. We constantly keep our lines of communication open,” the Philippine president continued saying at the Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on Friday.

Marcos shared that during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January, he suggested to institute a system so both leaders can have direct contact.

The proposal, he said, could help “avoid these unfortunate incidents that we see, such as blocking our fishermen in our fishing grounds, and intimidation of our maritime forces.”

“We are still working on it. I refer to it as a hotline," Marcos said. "Hopefully, we will have that in place. Disengagement is not really an option."

The president also reiterated the Philippines’ foreign policy of being “a friend to all, enemy to none.”

“As long as we continue to engage, to assure all our partners—not only China—that we have an open, available system to communicate with one another that seems to be the only way because we certainly don’t want to provoke a more serious situation than it is already now,” he said.

Before flying to the US for an official working visit last Sunday, Marcos said the government would propose to China a “fishing rights map” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), days after the near-collision of a Chinese ship and a Philippine vessel in the disputed waters.

At the same time, Marcos called on Beijing to form a communications team to avoid misunderstandings in the WPS.