MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said he raised the plight of Filipino fishermen to Chinese President Xi Jinping in a meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco, United States.
In an interview with the press, the President said he brought up incidents in the West Philippine Sea, including collisions between Filipino and Chinese vessels.
"I asked that we go back to the situation where both Chinese and Filipino fishermen were fishing together in these waters and so, I think the point was well taken by President Xi," the Philippine leader said.
Parts of the West Philippine Sea like Scarborough Shoal, which Manila also calls Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, are traditional fishing grounds. That means countries should not block access to them.
"[H]opefully to find ways to avoid that and have ways to move forward from this situation. Essentially, we tried to come up with mechanisms to lower the tensions in South China Sea," he said.
'NOT THE DEFINING ELEMENT'
Aside from this the two leaders agreed that the problems in the South China Sea "should not be the defining element of our relationship."
"But nonetheless, the problems remain and it is something that we will need to continue to communicate to find ways to avoid such incidents," he said.
In June, Marcos Jr said there had been progress in the Philippines’ discussions with China on fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea have made some progress, citing the importance of communication.
Marcos, at the time, stressed to President Xi the importance of putting a premium on the welfare of fishermen in the area, as they are affected most by the developments.
In January during his trip to China earlier this year, Marcos said that President Xi 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.
The Philippines in 2016 won against China before an international court, which invalidated its vast claims over the South China Sea, where the smaller West Philippine Sea is located. Beijing however continues to ignore that ruling.