GMA News Online - Bongbong Marcos calls for bilateral talks with China amid sea row

2 March 2016

By Elizabeth Marcelo | GMA News Online

GMA-News-OnlineSen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday reiterated his call to the Aquino administration to consider entering into bilateral talks with China amid tensions arising from the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute.

"In my opinion, and this has been my stand ever since, we should talk to China and tell them what we want and that we are not in favor of what they are doing and start from there," Marcos, a presidential candidate in the May elections, told reporters at the sidelines of his campaign sortie in Laguna.

"What is important is we start a dialogue," he added.

Marcos said the dialogue may not be formal or government-to-government but may be done through business, cultural or sports endeavors.

"It may be government-to-government or informal. It may also be through business, our businessmen can help or we may start a cultural or educational exchange," he said.

The Philippines, through its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), is verifying a report that China has seized a fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea near Palawan province.

Just last week, it has been reported that aside from the naval and aerial bases that China had constructed in several islands in the disputed territory, Beijing has also installed a high-frequency radar system in Cuarteron Reef.

A US think tank reported that the radar system has the capacity to monitor the southern portion of the West Philippine Sea.

Case vs. China

The Philippines has filed a case against China with the Hague-based United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), arguing that China's "nine-dash line" claim—a tongue-shaped encirclement that covers nearly the entire South China Sea—does not conform with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty to which both China and Philippines are signatories.

China had refused to participate in the proceedings.

Marcos said with these developments, the government must explore any other means of dialogue to ease the tension rather than just waiting for the resolution of the arbitration case.

The UN's PCA is expected to issue its ruling on the case between March to May of this year.

Peace through Ping-pong?

As an example of informal talks to ease the tension, Marcos cited the tension between the United States and China in the 1970s, which he said ended through a game of Ping-pong.

"No one thought that the diplomatic tension could end through a game of Ping-pong," he said.

"So all peaceful methods should be pursued, formally or informally, government to government, private sector, educational sector, cultural, sports. Let’s all give it a try. We would not know if it will work unless we give it a try," Marcos added.

PHL-Indonesia talks

Marcos further pointed out that the government could also use as guide the concluded bilateral talks between the Philippines and Indonesia where the two countries, after 20 years of negotiation, were able to agree on a maritime baseline boundary in connection with their claims over South China Sea.

Marcos chaired the Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee on the Philippines-Indonesia Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary.

"The valuable experience we had in conducting years of negotiation with Indonesia provides us with a roadmap on how to resolve our maritime territorial dispute with other countries, particularly the one with China in the West Philippine Sea," he said.