November 28, 2022

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in Thailand, Malacañang announced Thursday.

In a statement, Office of the Press Secretary officer-in-charge Cheloy Garafil confirmed that Marcos would meet with Xi on Thursday afternoon.

Marcos flew to Thailand on Wednesday, while Xi is expected to arrive in Bangkok on Thursday.

Garafil said Marcos is expected to raise the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) during his meeting with Xi.

“The President said that it’s impossible for him to talk to China without mentioning the West Philippine Sea issue,” she said.

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The Philippines and China have been in a long-standing maritime dispute as Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, which overlaps with the 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.

China has refused to acknowledge the ruling and continues to claim nearly the entire South China Sea.

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

During the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Novemver 11, Marcos called for the early conclusion of a final and binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region.

In his intervention, Marcos said the immediate conclusion of the COC becomes more relevant as nations mark 40 and 20 years of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), respectively.

“It shall be an example of how states manage their differences: through reason and through right. I, therefore, welcome the progress on textual negotiations on the COC this past year and hopefully an approved code of conduct in the very near future,” he said.

Xi was represented by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the Asean-China Summit.

In his opening remarks, the Chinese premier stressed that both China and Asean countries uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

“This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of the DOC. We mark this special occasion because the DOC has played an important and indispensable role in promoting peace in the South China Sea. And this represents the very principle that we shall keep to a making and realizing long term peace in the South China Sea. We are also conducting COC consultations,” Keqiang said.

“In this process, we take into account interests of all parties. We respect international law including the UNCLOS, we support the efforts to properly address matters related to the South China Sea in keeping with international law, including UNCLOS and also the DOC,” he added.