President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to raise important issues affecting bilateral ties between the Philippines and China—including maritime concerns in the West Philippine Sea—as he leaves at 1 p.m. today (Tuesday) for a three-day state visit to Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Mr. Marcos, who will have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, will also witness the signing of 14 bilateral agreements on trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, development cooperation, and people-to-people ties.

“We do not wish to preempt or second guess what the president will say, but the president will raise important issues affecting our bilateral relations… The president has said the maritime issues don’t define the totality of our relationship with China, but he acknowledges the importance of this issue,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Nathaniel Imperial said in a press briefing ahead of today’s state visit.

Mr. Marcos, who will be in Beijing from Jan. 3-5, is the first state leader to visit China this 2023.

Aside from his bilateral dialog with Xi, he will also meet with the chairman of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress of China Li Zhanshu, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

He is also expected to renew the Philippines’ accord in its participation on the “Belt and Road” initiative of China.

A highlight of the state visit is the planned memorandum of understanding on the creation of a direct communication plan between the Department of Foreign Affairs and of the Chinese Foreign Ministry to avoid “miscalculations and miscommunications in the WPS issue.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the timing of the state visit, which was upon the invitation of Xi, reflected the “high importance” accorded by both Manila and Beijing to bilateral relations.

“It fully demonstrates the high importance China and the Philippines attach to bilateral relations,” Wang said.

“Leaders of the two sides will have in-depth exchanges of views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest,” he added.

Imperial said the Philippines is also looking at possible grants from China amounting to 1.5 billion renminbi (RMB).