MANILA - Presidential aspirant and former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday that he would engage China over the West Philippine Sea issue, while taking care not to get into a shooting war with Beijing, if he is elected President.
In an interview with radio station DZRH, Marcos Jr. said the Philippines' only option to address the issue is to continually engage China and enter a bilateral agreement with Beijing. He said this entails talking with Beijing while also pursuing assistance from both the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Marcos Jr. said Manila cannot avail of the other two options to gain or lose territory: arbitration and war. He said arbitration did not work for Manila because Beijing was not willing to abide with the ruling.
"Kalimutan niyo na yun," he said. "Dahil wala tayong gustong pasukan na giyera. Ayaw naman ng China na mang-giyera sa atin; they don't want to go to war. Ayaw natin mapasok sa giyera against China or against anyone, for that matter. So ang natira is bilateral agreement. So yun ang dapat habulin natin; yun nalang ang natitira sa ating option na praktikal, na pwede maging totoo."
(Forget about it. We have no wars we want to enter in. China doesn't want to go to war with us. We don't want to get into a war with China or against anyone, for that matter. So our only option is a bilateral agreement. That is what we should chase after; that's the only option left to us that is practical, that we can make into reality.)
When asked of what he would do about an imaginary scenario wherein China would send armed boats to Pag-Asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, Marcos Jr. said that he would have a Philippine military vessel sent to the area to establish Manila's presence. He would then have a diplomatic protest filed, and try to have Beijing slowly decrease its armed boats around the island.
Marcos Jr. said he would also send a special delegation to Beijing and even call Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Sasabihin mo, Mr. President, what is happening here? Ano itong sitwasyon na ito? Ano man ang ginawa namin, bakit kayo nagpapadala ng armado na navy ninyo, eh sino yung papatayin ninyo? Sino yung babarilin ninyo? Wala namang threat dito," he said.
(What you will say is, Mr. President, what is happening here? What is this situation? What did we do for you to send an armed navy? Who will you kill? Who will you shoot? There's no threat to you here.)
"That's what we can do; we have to slowly, slowly disengage. Kapag nagka-tutukan na yan, magkamali lang yung isa sa kanila, may mapindot lang doon, wala na; magpuputukan na. Maraming masasaktan. Kaya dapat pagka naging very intense yung ganong klaseng crisis, dapat dahan-dahanin mo yung pag-disengage."
(If it results in shooting, if someone does something wrong and accidentally presses something, then that's it; there will be shooting. Many will get hurt. That's why if a crisis becomes that intense, we must slowly disengage.)
Marcos Jr. also said that Manila should also explore alternative ways to engage Beijing, such as enlisting the help of Chinese living in the Philippines to hold talks with the Chinese Communist Party.
The former senator previously expressed support for the Duterte administration's approach to dealing with China on the West Philippine Sea.
When asked about his foreign policy, Marcos said he would continue to pursue an independent one like Duterte.
He said that global geopolitics has changed, and there are no such things anymore as spheres of influence wherein countries had to choose one side over another like during the Cold War.
"We have to create our own foreign policy," he said. "Pag tinatanong sa akin saan ka papanig, sabi ko I don't work for Washington D.C., I don't work for Beijing, I work for the Philippines. So isipin natin what is in the national interest."
(If I'm asked, with whom I will take a side, I say I don't work for Washington D.C., I don't work for Beijing, I work for the Philippines. So let's think of the national interest.)
"The line that we have to tread is a very fine line between the two superpowers, or the three superpowers, Russia is coming back. Three superpowers is a very fine line. And it's not a straight line dahil nagbabago nga ang sitwasyon, paiba-iba. Lagi kong pinapa-alala sa lahat, ang napaka-yaman, napaka-lakas, napaka-bigat ng China, ganon din ang US. Tayo ang nasa gitna. Kapag bumahing yan magkasabay, mawawala tayo sa mapa."
(It's not a straight line because the situation changes. I always tell everyone that China is very rich, very strong, very heavy. The US is also like that. We are in the middle. If both of them sneeze, we'll be blown off the map.
He added that his family's treatment at the hands of the United States would not factor into his government's foreign policy decisions. The US government persuaded Bongbong's father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to flee with his family to Hawaii at the height of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
"Yung sinasabi mong hindi magandang karanasan sa Amerika namin ay walang kinalaman sa foreign policy yun. Kontra lang sa amin yun, hindi kontra sa Pilipinas yun," he said. "So hindi kasama yan sa magiging pag-iisip, usapan kung pano natin i-approach ang ating foreign policy."
(The bad experiences you're saying we had in America has nothing to do with foreign policy. That's against us, not against the Philippines. So that is not included in the talks or thinking that will go into how we will approach our foreign policy.)