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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Marcos, Xi to talk West PH Sea issues

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Leaders seek to ease tensions, ‘strategize’ PH role, way forward in disputed waters

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon (Friday in Manila) to discuss ways to ease tensions in the West Philippine 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 Jr. said in a video message.

“And we will put all of these together so as we’ll be able to strategize for the near future on what the Philippines’ role will be or what is the proper Philippines’ role in the West Philippine Sea,” he continued.

Marcos’ meeting with Xi follows his discussion with US Vice PresidentKamala Harris before the start of the APEC conference on Wednesday, which he said touched on Manila’s assessment of the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

“We just generally chatted about—she was very interested to know what our assessment was on the situation in the West Philippines Sea, and I just went through the narrative of what was —what had happened in the past few months,” he said.

“And we tried to discuss some of the ways forward and I think that generally speaking, especially after my meeting with President Xi, which I’m going to have some time today. After that, we will put together the ways forward because 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—is to maintain peace.”

In a separate statement, the White House said Harris reaffirmed the US commitment to stand with the Philippines in the face of China’s actions in the WPS.

“The Vice President reiterated that the United States standsshoulder-to-shoulder in defending the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea,” the statement read.

Harris also cited Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which provides that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea (SCS), would invoke US mutual defense commitments.

Marcos and Harris also reiterated the two nations’ commitment to upholding international rules and norms, including in the SCS.

Strong alliance

Marcos and Harris also renewed the Philippines’ and the US’ strong ties, the White House said.

“They reaffirmed the strength of the alliance between the United States and the Philippines and discussed ongoing efforts to deepen oursecurity ties and expand commercial and economic cooperation,” it said.

The two also discussed strengthening and broadening economiccooperation bilaterally and through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

They also welcomed the conclusion of a historic “123” civil nuclearcooperation agreement, which will deepen the two countries’ partnership to build a global clean energy economy and strengthen their shared commitment to improving energy security and advancing the global nonproliferation regime (see related story on A1 – Editors).

Harris also emphasized the importance of respect for human rights and labor rights, including safety for trade union leaders.

This was the fifth meeting between Marcos and Harris.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Friday said the meetingbetween the President and Harris not only served to enhance the country’s security but also opened doors for more economic opportunities for Filipinos.

“Of paramount importance is the reaffirmation during their meeting of our shared commitment to upholding international rules and norms, particularly in the South China Sea,” Romualdez said.

But an equally significant outcome of the meeting, Romualdez said, was the focus on expanding commercial and economic cooperation.

“President Marcos and Vice President Harris recognize the potential for mutual growth and prosperity through collaboration, fostering economic opportunities that will benefit both nations and their people,” Romualdez said.

A readout of the meeting released by the White House said Harris also announced a new partnership with the Philippine government to grow and diversify the global semiconductor ecosystem under the International Technology Security and Innovation (ITSI) Fund, created by the CHIPS Act of 2022.

Earlier, President Marcos assured the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in the US that Philippine government agencies and the private sector are ready to work with the American association if it plans to invest or expand in the Philippines.

He said the Philippines aspires to participate more significantly in the US semiconductor value chain in relation to the CHIPS Act and with the Executive Order of President Joe Biden to work with American allies and partners to strengthen the collective supply chain resilience.

In other developments:

* A party-list lawmaker pushed for the approval of a measure that would delineate the Philippines’ archipelagic sea lanes as a means to bar the unauthorized passage of foreign vessels within the country’s territorial waters and airspace. Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan of the Bicol Saro party-list group said House Bill 9034 designates the sea lanes and air routes in the West Philippine Sea for the continuous and speedy travel of foreign ships and aircraft exercising their right of innocent passage. The President is empowered under the bill to fix the coordinates of the designated sea lanes and substitute or add to them. “The continued non-designation of the country’s archipelagic sea lanes is tantamount to waiving this right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Yamsuan said.

* Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. who led the Philippine delegation to the 17th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) in Jakarta, Indonesia, reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to continue pursuing principled engagement with all countries to foster a rules-based order. To this end, he further manifested the Philippines’ continued commitment to the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea disputes in accordance with international law, principally the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and called upon all countries to embrace the responsibility of collective accountability or actions that violate international law. He also emphasized it is the responsibility of ASEAN countries to build up their respective defense capabilities to guarantee regional security.

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