MANILA — It is "too early" to expect results from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese leader Xi Jinping's talks on the South China Sea territorial dispute, a maritime law expert said Friday.
"I think at this stage, since this is the first meeting, it is actually too early to expect any major changes especially on the part of China," Prof. Jay Batongbacal told ANC's "Rundown".
"[Chinese President] Xi Jinping has already in a way set long-term plans in motion. It's not easy for China as well to make adjustments," he added.
Marcos on Tuesday flew to China for a 3-day state visit to improve bilateral ties with the world's second largest economy.
Marcos said 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.
According to Batongbacal, China is "not known for giving concessions easily."
"Instead, it is more known for carrying out test, shall we say, or probing any new leadership," he said. "That's why I think it's too early to expect any results from any talks with China actually."
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea between Manila and Beijing flared in 2012 after a standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels in the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal.
The 2 countries initially engaged in bilateral discussions to ease tensions, but Manila eventually dragged Beijing to an international arbitration court in The Hague after China reneged on an initial understanding that both sides would pull out all vessels in the disputed area.
In 2016, the arbitration court awarded a victory to the Philippines and invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway where at least 60 percent of sea-borne goods pass through annually.
China snubbed the ruling and continued building military installations in shoals and reefs that fall within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.