MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Monday vowed his administration will assert the country's sovereignty in its territories as he seeks to pursue an independent foreign policy during his term through 2028.
Marcos, whose predecessor former President Rodrigo Duterte pursued warmer ties with China amid the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, said "the Philippines shall continue to be a friend to all and an enemy to none."
"I will not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power," said Marcos in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"We will not waiver. We will stand firm in our independent foreign policy, with the national interest as our primordial guide," he added.
"We commit to maintaining good relations with the rest of the world."
Manila is locked in a maritime dispute with Beijing amid the latter's incursions in the country's territorial waters in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in natural gas deposits.
China has ignored a 2016 decision by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that declared its historical claim to be without basis.
The Philippines has increased its naval presence in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense had said, with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also helping the Philippine Coast Guard patrol the area.
"We will be a good neighbor, always looking for ways to collaborate and cooperate with the end goal of mutually beneficial outcomes. If we agree, we will cooperate and we will work together. And if we differ, let us talk some more until we develop a consensus. After all, that is the Filipino way," said Marcos.
Marcos said the Philippines will continue to forge stronger and "multi-faceted relationships with all our partners around the world."
Earlier this month, Marcos said he would "find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have" with China during his meeting with its top diplomat Wang Yi.
His National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos had said the Marcos administration would push for multilateral and bilateral talks with China and "other powers."
Malacañang last month said Marcos accepted the Chinese government's invitation to visit Beijing.