BEIJING — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said that Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to “find a compromise and find a solution” for Filipino fishermen to return to traditional fishing grounds in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
Marcos and Xi engaged in a bilateral meeting during the Filipino leader’s state visit to China, his first international trip in 2023, and his first state visit outside Southeast Asia.
“I was already very clear in trying to talk about the plight of our fishermen and the President promised that we would find a compromise and find a solution that will be beneficial so that our fishermen might be able to fish again in their natural fishing grounds,” Marcos said in a taped video.
“We also discussed what we can do to move forward to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have,” he said.
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea between Manila and Beijing began in 2012 after a standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels in the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal.
The two countries initially engaged in bilateral discussions to ease tensions, but Manila eventually dragged Beijing to an international arbitration court in The Hague after China reneged on an initial understanding that both sides would pull out all vessels in the disputed area.
In 2016, the arbitration court awarded a victory to the Philippines and invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway where at least 60 percent of sea-borne goods pass through annually.
China snubbed the ruling and continued building military installations in shoals and reefs that fall within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Last year, Filipino officials slammed China for interfering with Manila’s efforts to collect rocket debris in waters near the Philippines’ coasts.
Marcos also told Xi that the Philippines wants to resume negotiations on the joint oil and gas exploration project in the West Philippine Sea, noting his administration’s push to shift to renewable forms of energy.
“We talked at great length towards the end about climate change because we are all very much in agreement on the leaders that I have spoken to thus far are very much in agreement that this is a subject that we cannot leave alone or it will come back to haunt us in the future if we do not prepare,” Marcos said.
“We said that we should come into partnership so that… they can also help us with the transfer of technology and the different strategies for the move to renewable energy,” he said.
Marcos described his meeting with Xi as “very fairly detailed.”
“We covered so many subjects, much more than usual in these formal meetings,” the Filipino leader said.
“I'm actually very optimistic because President Xi seemed to be genuinely interested in all of these issues and find, finding a way to move forward to again strengthen the relationship between China and the Philippines,” he said.
Filipino Cabinet secretaries and other officials have been instructed “to pursue the subjects that we had discussed and to make sure that they are not, they do not remain in the wind,” Marcos said.
The plans made during the 3-day state visit to China must “actually come to fruition so that the effects will be felt by both our people by both China, both the Philippines and both our peoples to mutual benefit,” he said.
The Philippines and China inked 14 bilateral agreements during Marcos’ state visit including deals in the sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, trade and investments, among others.