By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon
Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., on Friday lauded the call by US President Barack Obama for China to stop building artificial islands in the South China Sea, which, he said, "bolstered the Philippines' protest and continued opposition to China's aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)."
"We welcome President Obama's demand as another strong stance against China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea. I appeal to the Chinese government to listen to the growing voice for maritime peace as a diplomatic solution to the territorial dispute," Marcos said in a statement.
Obama and President Aquino met on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit Leaders' Meeting held in Manila and reportedly agreed that a "bold step" is needed to ease the tension in the contested areas heightened by China's reclamation activities.
"We agree on the need for bold steps to lower tensions, including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea," Mr. Obama told hournalists.
Marcos also remarked that Manila and Beijing should not let the territorial dispute between the two countries' define the long history of friendship, mutual respect and cooperation.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the arbitration case that the Philippines filed against China in The Hague "is a knot that has impeded the improvement and development of Sino-Philippines relations," adding that it was up to Manila "how to loosen or open the knot".
The Arbitration Court in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear most of the points taken up in the case, but China rejected the Tribunal's authority.
"It is unfortunate that Philippine-China relations have come to this point. For a long time in our history we have been good neighbors. We should not let our territorial dispute become the focal point of our relations," said Marcos.
He noted that China has never attempted to colonize the Philippines, "and when they came here, they came in peace to trade with us."
"In the past, Filipino and Chinese fishermen were fishing together, taking shelter together during stormy weathers, eating and drinking together, and going their own ways in peace," he added.
The Senator said the decision of Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, hosted by Manila, provided a rare opportunity to take the first steps in easing the diplomatic tension between the two countries.
Marcos said that, for starters, "Manila and Beijing could agree to strengthen economic ties and put up a crisis mechanism to address issues on the maritime dispute and prevent the escalation of the situation."
Marcos has been urging the Philippine government to explore other avenues to resolve the dispute, including bilateral talks, particularly after Beijing shifted its position and expressed willingness to discuss the issue based on International Law.