Isko Moreno: China not an ‘enemy,’ but must respect PH's West Philippine Sea claim

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — Presidential aspirant and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said he does not consider China an enemy, but stressed Beijing must respect Manila's sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

"Hindi ko naman sila kaaway [They’re not my enemy]. I cannot blame (Chinese President) Xi Jinping thinking that West Philippine Sea is theirs. But in the same manner, the kind of thinking, the kind of respect must be given to us. No, it’s also ours,” Moreno told veteran journalist Korina Sanchez over the weekend.

"In the meantime, we won in the Hague ruling and rules must be observed. Contracts and agreements must be recognized,” he added.

Manila filed numerous diplomatic protests against Beijing last year, with the East Asian giant remaining adamant in its maritime claims despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejecting these in 2016.

RELATED: A look back at PH-China relations, maritime row in 2021

Moreno also said in an earlier radio interview that he will continue to convince other countries to help the Philippines implement the Hague ruling.

The local chief executive previously said he wants to modernize the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard if elected president, stressing this will help ensure that Filipino fisherfolk have unimpeded access to national waters.

Moreno also eyes appointing a former Navy flag officer as defense secretary if he wins in the polls, noting a Navy commander has expertise in guarding the country’s borders.