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PBBM cites fishermen’s plight to China leader

FIRM HANDSHAKES. President Marcos (right) swaps firm handshakes with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Peru President Dina Boluarte (below left, with Speaker Martin Romualdez witnessing at right) in separate meetings on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in San Francisco, which ended Friday (Saturday in Manila). Ver Noveno and MPC photo
Charles Dantes

Marcos, Xi crafting ways to ease tensions in WPS

President Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday (Manila time) discussed fishing rights and other mechanisms to ease tensions between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

The two leaders had a pull-aside meeting at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California.

President Marcos said he raised his concerns about the ongoing tensions in the area, especially the plight of Filipino fishermen, during his discussion with Xi.

“The problems remain and it is something that we will need to continue to communicate to find ways to avoid such incidents. And of course, as ever, whenever this issue comes up, I always bring up the plight of our fishermen,” Mr. Marcos said during a media interview.

The President was referring to the Oct. 22 incident in the WPS where a Chinese Coast Guard vessel collided with a Philippine supply boat, which was on a regular rotation and resupply mission to the detachment manning the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Mr. Marcos said that he and Xi exchanged ideas on specific agreements on how to ease the tensions in the South China Sea.

“That’s essentially the message that we spoke of to each other, that we were in agreement that the problems that we have in South China Sea, with China, should not be the defining element of our relationship,” President Marcos said.

“And hopefully to find ways to avoid that and have ways to move forward from this situation. Essentially, we tried to come up with mechanisms to lower the tensions in (the) South China Sea,” he added.

To further push for peace and stability in the region, President Marcos shared that he requested another meeting with Xi to voice some concerns about the incidents that transpired between Chinese and Philippine vessels.

“We have to continue to communicate. We have to continue to be candid with one another and to be sincere in our desire to keep the peace.

And I think that sincerity exists for both all parties involved. I do not think anybody wants to go to war,” Mr. Marcos said.

Before their meeting, China and the Philippines had been involved in various maritime jousts inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China’s aggressive behavior and maneuvers, such as pointing lasers, water cannon attacks, blocking of resupply ships in Ayungin shoal, and the more recent boat-ramming incident, were condemned by the Philippines and the international community.

Mr. Marcos said he and Xi agreed that the present challenges in the SCS concerning the Philippines and China “should not be the defining element of our relationship.”

Asked about the potential impact of his meeting with Xi on the SCS, Marcos said it is a “work in progress.”

“We really should view this as a work in progress. It’s a process,” he said. “We have to continue to communicate. We have to continue to be candid with one another and to be sincere in our desire for peace. I think that sincerity exists for both parties involved. I do not think anybody wants to go to war. So that is something, the premise actually of all the discussions that we have been having.”

On Thursday, Mr. Marcos also met with United States Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss ways to maintain peace in the WPS.

During his meeting with Harris, the President said his administration would find ways to assess “for the near future on what the Philippines’ role will be or what is the proper Philippines’ role in the West Philippine Sea.”

In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague junked the nine-dash claims of China covering the entire South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereignty in the area within its 200-nautical mile EEZ.

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