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Marcos calls China 'our strongest partner'

President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Friday branded the Asian superpower, China, as the Philippines’ strongest partner.

At the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding, Marcos said the Philippines would not make its way in the post-pandemic world by itself, noting that partnerships with other nations would help in the country’s economic recovery.

“And to come to the day that we can say, we have, we are beyond the pandemic crisis, we are beyond the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, we can only do it, certainly in the Philippines we can do it with our partners, and our strongest partner has always been, in that regard, our close neighbor and our good friend, the People’s Republic of China,” Marcos said.

Marcos said with cooperation and communication, the ties between the Philippines and China have grown and become stronger through the years.

The former senator sees the future of the two countries as "developing in many ways."

"I will encourage our relationship to not only be in the very strict and formal senses of business, of government-to-government, or public and private partnerships," Marcos said.

"All of those we will encourage but I learned a term, in one of the conferences I was invited to in China, and it is a good term because it is, I believe, presents for us another opportunity to grow closer and that term I learned from the Chinese is people-to-people," he added.

Marcos said the difficulties and differences of the two countries would be "helped in every way as long as we continue trying and continue to communicate and continue to be forthright in the interest of each of our countries."

Further, Marcos said he would continue President Rodrigo Duterte's independent foreign policy, with the present government having a soft stance when it comes to Beijing.

The incoming president believes that this policy is beneficial not only to China but also with other nations.

"Perhaps, we will continue what President Duterte has started, what has been described as an independent foreign policy, and this is what we feel is best in the national interest and I think it is to be advantageous not only to our friends in China but to all our friends around the world," he said.

Marcos made the remark amid the Department of Foreign Affairs' lodging of protest against China as more than 100 Chinese vessels have reportedly returned to Julian Felipe Reef, a low tide elevation within the territorial sea of relevant high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, following a case filed by the Philippines, invalidated China's sweeping claims over the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing does not recognize the ruling.

Incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Professor Clarita Carlos has said the Marcos administration would pursue a "critical engagement" with China amid the dispute in the resource-rich region.

Earlier, Marcos said his administration would defend the country's sovereignty by talking to China  "with a firm voice," as he also admitted that the Philippines could not afford to go to war against China, a similar stance being held by Duterte.

Meanwhile, in the event, the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, inducts Marcos' mother, former first Lady Imelda Marcos, in its Hall of Fame for her "remarkable contributions in promoting friendship between China and the Philippines."

"It is an extraordinary honor and privilege to have been given the opportunity to be one of the Hall of Fame APPCU 2021 awardee. I am truly honored to receive an award along with other individuals who have made remarkable contributions in promoting friendship between the China and the Philippines," the elder Marcos said in her message.—LDF, GMA News