Marcos, Xi tackle South China Sea, regional issues on APEC sidelines

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reiterated his view that relations between the two countries should not be defined by the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. held a bilateral meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the first time at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Thailand on Thursday.

Topics discussed included the South China Sea, with Marcos reiterating his position that the maritime dispute is not the sum of the two countries’ relations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“Marcos Jr. stressed his consistent view that relations between the two countries should not be defined by maritime issues and that both sides may further enhance communication in this regard,” read the ministry’s statement on Friday.

Marcos is pushing for the completion of a South China Sea code of conduct among claimants, which also include Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The chief executive said that even after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit last week, there was still no progress on attempts to finalize the set of rules that aim to ensure peace and stability in the resource-rich area.

China added that the Philippines expressed its readiness to engage in active consultations and “find ways to advance the joint exploration of maritime oil and gas resources” in the contested waterway. 

Before it passed the baton to a new government, the previous Duterte administration announced it terminated the joint exploration talks with Beijing.

The two countries signed the memorandum of understanding in 2018, but the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said the goal of developing the oil and gas resources was not achieved. 

In 2016, an international arbitral tribunal backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights to areas within its exclusive economic zone that are being claimed by China. The ruling also invalidated China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

Beijing, however, continues to ignore the landmark ruling.

Meanwhile, Marcos and Xi also talked about other regional issues and plans for Marcos' upcoming state visit to China, according to the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS).

"The bilateral meetings are really just a kind of getting-to-know-you and that was the same with our meeting," Marcos said following the meeting, as quoted by OPS.

"So, I am looking forward to January and the state visit to China," he added.

Malacañang also said the two leaders discussed strengthening and expanding ties in the areas of agriculture, energy, infrastructure and people-to-people connections.

The President’s meeting with the Chinese leader is significant given that China is a large trading partner and a major source of investment, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement.

The meeting also touched on the consensus among Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states to continue supporting the "One China" policy, a diplomatic acknowledgment that Taiwan is a part of China, Malacañang added.

READ: Luring investments, meeting the royal family: What to expect in Marcos' Thailand trip for APEC Summit