December 2, 2022

(UPDATE) PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Thursday met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways to firm up bilateral ties even as the territorial dispute between their countries in the South China Sea continues to simmer.

Marcos and Xi held a one-on-one discussion on the sidelines of the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

Marcos’ first bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader took place ahead of his scheduled state visit to China this January.

It will be the President’s first state visit outside of Southeast Asia following official trips to Indonesia and Singapore in September.

The Philippines and China have been locked in a maritime row, with Beijing claiming almost all of the South China Sea, which overlaps with the West Philippine Sea.

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In 2016, the Philippines scored a victory against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, after the court declared Beijing’s claim on the South China Sea as illegal.

China has refused to acknowledge the ruling.

Apart from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have also competing claims in the South China Sea.

During the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last week, Marcos called for the finalization of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region.Marcos said he and Xi spoke about regional issues, but mostly about the plans for his state visit to China in January.

Whatever details that need to be discussed between the Philippines and China will be taken up during the visit, the President said, describing the recent meeting as “a very pleasant exchange.”

“It’s the first time that I’ve met President Xi Jinping and I was very happy that we were able to have this opportunity here in the APEC Meeting in Bangkok to have a bilateral meeting,” Marcos said.

“The bilateral meetings are really just a kind of getting-to-know-you and that was the same with our meeting,” he added.

The President said Xi was also surprised to meet his old friend, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who accompanied him during the meeting.

“And they had a few minutes of recollecting the meetings that they have had, which I think helped the tone of the meeting. So I am looking forward to January and the state visit to China,” he said.

This was Marcos’ first bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart and his first bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Summit.

In written remarks to an APEC business summit on Thursday, Xi laid out a vision of economic cooperation for the Pacific rim, urging more open trade, closer cooperation and smooth supply chains.

“The Asia Pacific is no-one’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest,” he said in the remarks in English.

“No attempt to wage a new Cold War will ever be allowed by the people or by our times.”

With AFP