Xi to Marcos: China ready to resume oil, gas talks
BEIJING — China is ready to resume oil and gas talks with the Philippines and handle maritime issues in a friendly and consultative manner, China President Xi Jinping told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. here on Wednesday, Chinese state television reported.
Xi also said both countries should increase communication and cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and culture, according to the report.
In 2018, China and the Philippines pledged to jointly explore oil and gas assets in the West Philippine Sea.
But the talks failed and in June, before Marcos assumed the presidency, outgoing Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said discussions had been terminated as a result of constitutional limits and sovereignty issues.
In response to Xi’s statement, Marcos said: “I really hope — I would very much like, as you have suggested, Mr. President — to be able to announce that we are continuing negotiations and that we hope that these negotiations will bear fruit. Because the pressure (is) upon not only China, not only the Philippines but the rest of the world to move away from the traditional fronts of power.”
Speaking earlier with other Chinese leaders during his three-day state visit here, Marcos said Manila’s relationship with Beijing should not be defined by “difficulties” and “disagreements” on the West Philippine Sea.
“I believe that this cannot be, we must not allow that [to be] the sum of our relationship… It is not the only relationship that we have with China. It is not over the South China Sea,” the President said during a meeting with Li Zhanshu, standing committee chair of China’s National People’s Congress, earlier Wednesday.
“Our relationship extends to commerce, culture, education, investment, in trade and in every level,” Marcos noted.
The Philippine leader said the partnership with Beijing in the next few years should “stabilize and strengthen all our economies so that we are able to face the challenges and the different shocks that now we are already been able to feel and continue to feel,” especially during the pandemic.
He said he hoped China, as the Philippines’ biggest trading partner, “will continue to invest in the Philippines.”
Total trade between China and the Philippines stood at $29.1 billion from January to September 2022, with exports amounting to $8.1 billion and imports at $21 billion, according to Malacañang.
“We feel that we must strengthen those ties and we must strengthen the cooperation we have at every level,” Marcos said.
After the meeting with Li, Marcos sat down with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and echoed his call for continued cooperation with Beijing.
“It is important that these partnerships continue to be strong, continue to be encouraged. And I think that will be the way forward to the mutual benefit of our countries,” he told the Chinese premier.
Evening meeting with Xi
The two officials first met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last November.
Marcos was due to have bilateral discussions with the Chinese president on Wednesday evening.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who was part of the presidential delegation, told reporters that disputes in the West Philippine Sea would be dealt with in an “amicable” manner.
“We just decided that we will try to emphasize where we have common interests, where we have a lot of cooperation. We will leverage on that goodwill and we will leverage on all that political, diplomatic capital,” he said.
The president’s three-day state visit — his first foreign trip in 2023 — comes against a backdrop of a lingering maritime row with China in the South China Sea.
Swarming of Chinese vessels
In recent weeks, the Philippines expressed great concern over the swarming of Chinese vessels within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), waters it calls the West Philippine Sea, as well as over Beijing’s reported reclamation on unoccupied features.
The Philippines also recently protested an incident where a Chinese coast guard vessel forcibly retrieved rocket debris that the Philippine Navy was towing toward Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea, along with its potential offshore oil and gas deposits and traditional fishing grounds.
A 2016 ruling by an international arbitral tribunal recognized the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and exploit resources in the region, invalidating China’s sweeping historical claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.
During his first State of the Nation Address in July last year, Mr. Marcos said the Philippines would not yield “a single square inch” of territory to any foreign power.
Later on Wednesday, the Philippine and Chinese sides were expected to sign up to 14 agreements in areas covering trade, agriculture, trade and investment, and tourism.
“We will be signing more than a dozen of agreements and loans so that we expect our ‘Build, Better, More’ to be accelerated. And also other areas like agriculture will be a big part of this mission,” Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.
Wife, sister, and cousin
The president was accompanied by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his wife Liza Araneta-Marcos, his sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, his cousin Romualdez, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and Special Assistant to the President Secretary Anton Lagdameo during his meeting with Li.
The first lady took a short tour around the Forbidden City and the Memorial Hall of Mao Zedong in the morning, writer and entrepreneur Wilson Lee Flores told the Inquirer.
—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS
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