Speech of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.
“China-Southeast Asia People’s High-Level Dialogue”
Hosted by China NGO Network for International Exchange
Grand Meeting Room, Liyuan Resort, Nanning City
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on this important and pressing issue. Allow me to focus particularly on the situation with China and the Philippines.
The subject as laid out “Government and Civil Society Partnership for Regional Peace and Development” hints at what I see to the best way forward for our two countries in the light of the diplomatic difficulties we are experiencing.
The conflicting claims that we have over various islands and sea lanes in the West Philippine Sea have existed for many years now. However, it is only now that the problems have become so immediate, with standoffs and heated exchanges and the like, that we must find a way to at least begin to resolve the situation. I believe that our two countries must agree on a mechanism to first, take a step back and cool the present situation. Second, we must agree on a framework method that is agreeable to both our countries to move the discussions forward to arrive at a true and permanent resolution of the problem. This is with the quite reasonable understanding that it is the duty of the duty of the Philippine leadership to explore, discuss and pursue any other possible avenues that are available that have the potential to normalize the situation.
I know that our two countries did not enter into an agreement to establish diplomatic relations in 1975 so we can quarrel over our conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea. With that in mind, I propose that instead of making that conflict the main feature of our relationship, let us make it a minor part and pursue further contacts, exchanges and cooperation in other sectors. The obvious area is trade and our trade has doubled in value from 2009 to today. Although that sounds encouraging, when taken in absolute terms, the figure of US$12.8B still leaves great room for growth.
Trade is not only the only sector that we should explore. Tourism between our two countries also holds great promise for cooperation. This has increased in recent years such that China is now the fourth largest tourist market for the Philippines. Furthermore, individual and social contact will surely lessen tensions as we put a face to each other at a more human and personal level.
The area of education is ripe for cooperation. There is already an initiative to establish Confucius Institutes in the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University. This is a good start but it is only that, a start. We must have more University-to-University linkages for collaborative research, faculty and student exchange. With the ASEAN Integration in 2015, there is an urgency for cooperation not only between China and the Philippines but also China and ASEAN.
We have already taken some first steps in the area of agricultural modernizations. This has taken the form of government to government agreements. It is now time to link farmers’ organizations and cooperatives in our two countries to further strengthen and make more meaningful what initiatives our governments have already taken.
Exchanges in the area of health care and social protection is another area that we could strengthen. We can learn from each other’s experiences especially as the Philippines has committed to increasing coverage in social health insurance.
We also share the misfortune of being vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, floods, earthquakes and the like. Again, mutual assistance and information exchange would seem a natural point of cooperation.
What has long sustained our relations thus far has generally been in the area of cultural and arts exchanges. This plays no small part in deepening the understanding between our two peoples. It is an area rich with possibilities and something we can expand immediately and surely will bring us closer to each other.
These areas of possible partnerships in international exchanges and cooperation can only be enhanced by the participation of organizations such as CNIE whose network of NGOs can serve as a conduit for such activities. You will find in the Philippines very fertile ground in that aspect as we are internationally recognized to be one of the leading countries in terms of active NGOs operating and assisting in these and many other sectors of Philippine society.
We thank the China NGO Network for International Exchanges for taking this initiative for us to explore such mutual areas of cooperation. We look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts through organizations such as CNIE for the continued enhancement of friendship between our two countries, ASEAN and the region.