Marcos, Xi meet anew to reduce sea tensions
SAN FRANCISCO—President Marcos will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Saturday (Philippine time), on the sidelines of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit held in this city, to again discuss ways to deescalate tensions in the South China Sea.
“We will get the view of the Chinese President on what we can do to bring down the temperature, to not escalate the situation in the West Philippine Sea,”Marcos said in a video message on Friday, referring to the area in the South China Sea where the Philippines is supposed to maintain an exclusive economic zone.
The meeting between the two leaders would be their second this year after Marcos’ state visit to China in January.
The two met for the first time at the Apec summit in Bangkok, Thailand, in November last year. A week before their Nov. 17 bilateral meeting, tensions rose again in the West Philippine Sea when a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship on Nov. 10 fired a water cannon on a Philippine resupply boat heading toward the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusty grounded vessel serving as a military outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
In the wake of that incident, Xi acknowledged toMarcos his country’s differences with the Philippines over the South China Sea, adding that both nations needed to maintain “stability” in their relations.
But only four days after that meeting, the Philippine Navy reported that the China Coast Guard (CCG) seized from them debris from a rocket that fell in the area of Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
The President’s second meeting with Xi on Jan. 4 again took up the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.“To avoid possible misunderstanding and miscalculation, we agreed to establish direct communication lines at various levels up to the highest level,” Mr. Marcos said about his talks with the Chinese leader regarding the South China Sea.
But the next month, a CCG vessel directed a military-grade laser toward a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol ship on its way to Ayungin Shoal. This incident prompted Mr. Marcos to summon Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian on Feb. 14.
‘Maintain the peace’
Yet there have been more incidents of Chinese aggression since that time, the latest being another water cannonade incident on Nov. 10 and the sighting of Chinese militia vessels crowding the areas of Rozul (Iroquois) Reef and Pag-asa Island in the last two months.Marcos still maintained that “we are continuously trying to maintain the peace.”
“And now that’s what I see the mission of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine military, our fishermen, all of us. It is our basic fundamental mission here to maintain the peace,” the President said.
Marcos also met with Kamala Harris on Thursday. According to him, the US Vice President was “very interested to know what our assessment was on the situation in the West Philippines Sea.”
Harris also reaffirmed to Marcos Washington’s defense commitment to Manila under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.