MANILA (UPDATED) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr says he has raised to Chinese authorities the near-collision of Philippine and Chinese coast guard ships in the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine authorities had accused the Chinese Coast Guard of undertaking “dangerous maneuvers” at the Ayungin Shoal that nearly resulted to a collision of their ship with Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel BRP Malapascua.
“I have already. You know, this is the kind of thing that we are hoping to avoid. But this time it was a little more dangerous, because malapit na sila, talagang kamuntik nang magbanggaan. And that will cause casualties on both sides, and that is exactly what we want to avoid,” he said.
Marcos Jr called on Beijing to speed up the creation of a high-level communication mechanism to resolve such incidents in the West Philippine Sea.
“And pinilit ko sa kanila yung aking sinasabi na merong high level na communication, tapusin na natin, buuin na natin. Hindi pa natin nabubuo, we are waiting for China to give us the details on who will be the team at their end. Yung sa Pilipinas, tapos na, we already have a team, we have already submitted the names, even the telephone numbers of these people. So inaantay na lang natin ang counterpart ng team natin from China,” he said.
“They agree, they are working on it,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Marcos Jr says Manila and Beijing have agreed to sit down and discuss the issue of fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.
“Sabi ko, pwede ba, pag-usapan na natin ang fishing grounds dahil ito naman talaga ang first priority natin for now. Of course ang overall priority is to safeguard our maritime territory but when you go down into the details, the most immediate concern is the fishing rights, so that is what we have to do, that’s what we have to decide,” he said.
“And they have agreed to sit down. I’ve asked the Coast Guard and the DFA to put together, perhaps a map of the fishing grounds, sasabihin natin, ito Pilipinas talaga ito and we’ll see what they’ll say when we give them our proposal.”
Marcos, Biden talks to tackle China
Marcos, who is in the United States for an official visit, is slated to discuss Beijing's aggressive expansion in the South China with US President Joe Biden.
The President's trip follows last week's state visit to Washington by President Yoon Suk Yeol and a meeting at the White House between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in January.
"It is clear that we're in a deeply consequential period in terms of our Indo-Pacific engagements," a senior US official told reporters ahead of Marcos' arrival.
"It's really the first kind of meeting at this level and intensity between United States and the Philippines in decades," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Alarm bells are ringing for Washington and its Asian allies as China moves ever more confidently to assert claims to sovereignty over almost the whole South China Sea, ignoring an international ruling that this has no legal basis.
The tension, combined with constant saber rattling over Taiwan—the democratically run island that Beijing claims but Washington vows to help defend—has prompted the Biden administration to rapidly bolster its military capabilities.
The Philippines, which lies close to key sea lanes and Taiwan, is of particular interest.
—with report from Agence France-Presse