ANALYSIS: What PH’s China policy could look like under a Marcos presidency

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2022 05:08 AM | Updated as of Mar 30 2022 06:37 AM

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MANILA (UPDATE)– If Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. wins the presidency, Manila could continue to be "overly accommodating and submissive" to Beijing over the South China Sea, an expert said Tuesday.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said Marcos' past statements on the Philippines' policy with China on the disputed waters have been "concerning", saying those echo the Duterte administration's kowtowing attitude towards the superpower.

"What I was concerned about was that he (Marcos) seemed to be even less concerned or more dismissive rather of the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and its modernization effort. That is a matter of concern as to the future trajectory of his foreign policy," Batongbacal said in an interview with ANC's "After the Fact."

Chinese officials have voiced their favor for the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as he would be conducive to Manila-Beijing relations, the analyst said.

"From my perspective, (this) would not be better for the Filipinos because it would be a continuation and perhaps intensification of what was wrong with the initial five years of the current administration's policy being overly accommodating and submissive to China's actions and demands," Batongbacal said.

Since he was elected, President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued investments and loans from China and refused to press the superpower to follow the 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed court that junked Beijing's historical claims in the South China Sea, including parts of Philippine waters.

Marcos has said Duterte was employing "the right way" towards Beijing and its rejection of the ruling that junked its claims, adding that the Philippines would be sure to lose if it goes to war with China over the hotly contested waterway.

Last January, the presidential candidate said the Philippines' only option to address the issue was to continually engage with China and enter a bilateral agreement with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Despite the 2016 ruling, China has aggressively encroached and conducted military activities in the disputed waters.

Batongbacal—who is on sabbatical from heading the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea—emphasized last year that Filipinos should not vote for a leader who will continue the current administration’s policies on China relations.

“Kaya 'yung susunod po hindi po dapat uli tayo magpabilog ng ulo. Wag naman po tayo boboto ng liderato na itutuloy lang ng basta-basta itong dati nang maling polisiya ng ating administrasyon."