MANILA - President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday said he will assert the Philippines' claim in the West Philippine Sea while continuing to pursue bilateral contact with China.
"We will not allow a singe square millimeter of our maritime coastal rights to be trampled upon," Marcos said in a press conference, where only 3 networks were invited.
"How do we do that? We talk to China consistently with a firm voice. Hindi naman natin puwedeng gerahin (We cannot wage war against them)," he said.
The 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea will be used "to continue to assert our territorial rights," he said.
"Nasa atin na yung arbitral ruling so we have a very important ruling in our favor. We will use it," the President-elect said.
"It's not a claim, it's already a right."
Marcos earlier said Manila cannot avail of arbitration or war to gain or lose territory. 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.)
In the interview, Marcos noted that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping over a phone call that his administration would "continue to pursue bilateral contact and cooperation with China."
"I immediately went and said that we have to continue to talk about it," he said.
"This cannot be allowed to fester and become more severe of a problem for our 2 countries," he added.
"We have to forge partnerships and that is what will keep things stable," he added.
Beijing has enjoyed warmer ties with Manila over the past six years under President Duterte's China-friendly policy, with China offering several billion dollars of investment - including railways, roads and bridges - in the Southeast Asian archipelago.
While Macros Jnr gave little detail of his China policy on the campaign trail, he has said he would resume Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program, and suggested that Beijing's support was important to such construction, according to Dai Fan, a Philippine affairs expert with Jinan University in Guangzhou.
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines earlier described Marcos as a "builder, supporter and promoter of" the "friendship between China and the Philippines.
With a report by South China Morning Post