MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday expressed his intent to discuss the South China Sea (SCS) issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the 40th and 41st Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


                          President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

In a media interview after departing Manila, Marcos emphasized the importance of finding ways to settle the long-standing territorial disputes in SCS between the Philippines and other littoral states which include China.

Marcos said it is “impossible” for him not to mention the SCS issue with Xi when he is given the chance to hold a meeting with his counterpart.

“Those kinds of discussions, especially with the West Philippine Sea, I’m hoping to do that with the Chinese President,” he told reporters who were also onboard the presidential plane.

“So, hopefully, ‘yun ang magiging isang subject matter na pag-usapan namin (that will be one subject matter that we will discuss)… It’s impossible for me to talk to China without mentioning that,” he added.

In his pre-departure speech, Marcos said the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and Related Summits will serve as a platform to address regional issues, including the developments in the SCS.

This is the first time Marcos will participate in the ASEAN meetings which will be held in Cambodia from Nov. 10 to 13.

Marcos is expected to meet with some of his counterparts in the ASEAN and dialogue partners on the sidelines of the summits.

However, it was unclear if Marcos will be able to hold a meeting with Xi.

Marcos said he is keen to look for ways to address the Philippines’ SCS disputes with China and other sea claimants.

“Kailangan natin makahanap ng paraan para i-resolve itong issue na ito (We have to find a way to resolve this issue). But to do that, we have to first status quo everything and that’s what the code of conduct will do, to leave things as status quo,” he said.

He also acknowledged the need to conclude the negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) to promote peace and stability in the disputed waters.

This, as he lamented that there were “no changes,” despite the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the SCS.

ASEAN and China signed the DOC on Nov. 4, 2002 to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the busy waterway.

“The first declaration that we had also said that. That no changes. Pero marami nang nagbago (There are recent developments), that’s why we need this new code of conduct,” Marcos said.

China, the Philippines, and several other littoral states have overlapping claims in the SCS where Beijing claims around 80 percent of the busy waterway.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, Netherlands on July 12, 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines’ petition against China after the arbitral tribunal invalidated Beijing’s supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire SCS.

China, however, has repeatedly ignored the PCA ruling on SCS.