Philippines (UP) political science professor Clarita Carlos. File Photo
Philippines (UP) political science professor Clarita Carlos. File Photo

THE administration of President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos will pursue a “critical engagement” with China despite the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS), incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) Clarita Carlos said on Thursday.

Carlos, a former University of the Philippines professor, said she discussed the Philippines’ relationship with China during a lengthy meeting with Marcos on Wednesday prior to her appointment.

“You mentioned the magic word ‘critical,’ yan ang isa sa mga napag-usapan namin ni President Marcos (It’s one of the topics that we discussed with President Marcos),” she said.

China has been claiming the WPS as part of its territory, refusing to recognize an arbitral court ruling in 2016 that the Philippines has jurisdiction over it.

The critical engagement policy will be enhanced on all levels, Carlos added, without going into details.

Carlos said she decided to accept the NSA post since the issues concerning defense, security and foreign policy are within her field of expertise.

China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian earlier declared that the WPS issue can be resolved through “bilateral consultation and friendly communication.”

“We are two neighbors who have some differences, but what is crucial is the way and manner we handle the differences,” Xilian said.

On Thursday, senators welcomed the appointment of Carlos as security adviser and Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella as Agrarian Reform secretary.

Outgoing Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd said that the president-elect made the right choices in naming the two officials to his Cabinet.

Incoming Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri also welcomed the appointment of Carlos and Estrella.

Carlos “is an exceptional choice for the position of NSA head, especially since she is an expert in geopolitics. And let us not question her gender for that male-dominated position as I’m sure she’s tough as nails,” Zubiri said.

Returning Sen. Loren Legarda said she hopes Carlos will focus on the climate crisis.

“I have worked with Professor Claire Carlos for decades. She was my practitioner, I know that she is an outstanding national security expert, with a keen mind that specializes on global and geopolitics. I hope that she will focus on the climate crisis as well,” said Legarda, who is said to be the next Senate President Pro Tempore.

Sorsogon Governor and Senator-elect Francis “Chiz” Escudero said that he is looking forward to working with Carlos and Estrella.

“I know them both personally; Professor Carlos was my professor at UP and Congressman Estrella was a colleague in Congress. They are both qualified and up to the task. I wish them well and look forward to working with them,” Escudero said.

Asked if Carlos can effectively advise Marcos on how to address the WPS issue, Escudero said: “That and other national security concerns as she brings with her a different perspective (not purely military but that of the academe) plus decades of exposure in this field both locally and internationally.”