Marcos hopes Duterte, Xi talked about China’s actions in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he hoped former President Rodrigo Duterte raised the matter of Chinese vessels shadowing Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) during the latter’s unannounced meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Manila, Marcos said he was aware of his predecessor’s “personal” trip to China and his plan to visit Xi, as “they are friends.”
“So I hope that they talked about the issues that we see now—the shadowing and other matters,” he said, referring to recent actions by Chinese navy and coast guard ships in the West Philippine Sea, or the waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, which had been the subject of diplomatic protests by Manila.
“All of these things that we are seeing now, I hope they talked about it so that we will have progress because that is what we are really after — constant dialogue,” Marcos said.
“That’s why I welcome any new lines of communication. If that is President PRRD [Duterte] then good. It’s not important to me who [is talking to China],” he said. “I am sure he will be able to tell us what happened during their conversation and see how that affects us.”
During their meeting, Xi told Duterte to continue to promote cooperation between the two countries, according to Chinese state media, after bilateral relations cooled with the latter’s successor seeking closer ties with Washington.
“I hope you will continue to play an important role in the friendly cooperation (between China and the Philippines),” Xi was quoted as saying during the meeting at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse.
“During your tenure as president of the Philippines, you had resolutely made the strategic choice to improve relations with China in an attitude of being responsible to the people and to history,” Xi told Duterte.
In response, Duterte promised Xi that he would “continue contributing to promoting bilateral friendship,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Under Marcos, relations between China and the Philippines have grown tense, with Manila pivoting back to its traditional ally, the United States.
The Philippines and the United States reaffirmed a decades-old security alliance during a trip by Marcos to Washington in May, where he met with US President Joe Biden, who said the US commitment to defending its ally was “ironclad.”
Asked about Duterte’s meeting, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it did “not have official information on the visit of the former President.”
Duterte’s former aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, said the “private visit” had nothing to do with politics.
The senator said Duterte had been invited by the Friends of the Philippines Foundation, which built a school building in honor of the former President’s late mother, Soledad Duterte, but couldn’t attend its inauguration at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was only now that he was finally able to accept the invitation. And since he’s already in China, he made a courtesy visit to his friend, President Xi,” Go told reporters in Bulacan province.
Duterte “just wanted to thank Xi for the support and help that China extended to the Philippines during his term,” he added.
But a House opposition leader, Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers party list, said the meeting only showed that the former President was “at Beijing’s beck and call.”
She said it appeared that Duterte had been “summoned” by Xi to express China’s displeasure over the Philippines’ warmer relations with the United States under the Marcos administration.
“[It] seems that China is displeased with the work of Duterte in convincing the Marcos administration to be cozy with China and instead went to the US to counter China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.
Renato de Castro, an international relations professor at De La Salle University, agreed that the visit was China’s way of sending a signal to the current administration to “veer away from what it perceives as US-tilting policies.”
“I think China already saw that there are already cleavages and fissures within the current administration, with what happened to GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), then the marginalization of [Vice President] Sara Duterte,” De Castro said.
But Austin Ong, cofounder of the Philippine-China Friendship Association, said he believed the meeting was “innocent.”
“They have a policy of non-intervention. China just has the tendency to [roll out] the red carpet due to the significant contributions of the former President,” he said.