The Manila Times : PH to uphold tribunal's maritime ruling – Marcos

By Kristina Maralit | The Manila Times

PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Thursday he will uphold an international ruling against Beijing over the disputed South China Sea, insisting he will not let China trample on the Philippines' maritime rights.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich waterway, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, with competing claims from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 decision by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that declared its historical claim to be without basis.

In his strongest comments yet on the longstanding source of tensions between the two nations, Marcos said he will not "allow a single millimeter of our maritime coastal rights to be trampled upon."

"We have a very important ruling in our favor and we will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim. It is already our territorial right," he told selected local media.

"We're talking about China. We talk to China consistently with a firm voice," he said.

But he added: "We cannot go to war with them. That's the last thing we need right now."

Marcos said that the Philippines will continue to be a "friend to everyone."

He added he will seek to strike a balance between China and the United States, which are vying to have the closest ties with his administration.

"We are a small player amongst very large giants in geopolitics. We have to ply our own way," he said.

"I do not subscribe to the old thinking of the Cold War where we had these spheres of influence where you're under the Soviet Union or you're under the United States," he said.

"I think that we have to find an independent foreign policy where we are friends with everyone. It's the only way."

He added that he hopes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will play a big role in bringing the maritime dispute to a peaceful resolution.

Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam are the other Asean member-nations with territorial claims in the contested waterway, along with Taiwan.

"I think Asean will still be a very critical part of that discussion, but nonetheless, we also have to continue to pursue bilateral contact and communication with China," he said.

with AFP