DAVOS, Switzerland: The Philippines will not “cross the red line” and give up any part of its territory being claimed by other countries, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said amid unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“We cannot concede any of the territorial claims that are being made against our established territory,” Marcos said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) here.
“That is the red line. That is something that will not move. It’s something that we cannot cross because it’s a very slippery road from there,” he added.
The President acknowledged that breaking the stalemate between the Philippines and China will not be easy, as both countries are adamant on their stands.
“That’s a difficult thing to have to do because the impasse, really, has occurred in the application of the law,” Marcos said. “Both sides say that this area belongs — we say it is the maritime territory of the Philippines, and, of course, China says the same,” he added.
Marcos said there are many ways to navigate the issue, including joint exploration in the region and other agreements.
“We may find a way around that, it’d be limited to exploration. Hopefully, I think there’s still some give-and-take there,” he added.
Marcos said the United States has already committed to stand by the Philippines if the dispute escalates.
“Yes. They (US) have already made that commitment. As a matter of fact, when there are certain reports that come in, some of the American ships come down and make their presence felt. So, we’re hoping to maintain it at that level,” he said.
“Of course, all of us that are stakeholders, Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Asia-Pacific countries, all just want peace because we really have a great deal of work to do in recovering our economies,” he added.
When Marcos visited China earlier this month, he and President Xi Jinping called for “friendly consultation to appropriately resolve maritime issues.”
The two leaders also agreed to resume talks on joint oil and gas exploration in the non-disputed areas in the resource-rich South China Sea.
“When I met with President Xi, both in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Forum) and the state visit I just had to the People’s Republic, I said we have to find a system so that these sorts of things will not happen,” Marcos said.
“I suggested, and I think we’re going to establish it, that we will have a line of communication that is higher up. So that those — we have already a bilateral group that is working on the issues in the South China Sea, West Philippine Sea. But I think it should be raised to a certain level,” he added.
The Philippines and China also agreed on an arrangement for the establishment of a communication mechanism on maritime issues between the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China to reduce tensions.
The Philippines and China have been in a long-standing maritime dispute as Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, a portion of which has been renamed West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines scored a victory against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands in 2016. The arbitration court declared Beijing’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea as illegal.
However, China refused to acknowledge the ruling.