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Marcos says disengagement with China 'not an option'

WASHINGTON — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday (US time) said the Philippines will continue to balance its relations with China while defending its sovereignty, noting that disengagement with Beijing is not an option.

During a question-and-answer session at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the last day of his official US visit, Marcos was asked how Manila will maintain a stable relationship with Beijing while defending its sovereignty amid continued harassment in the South China Sea.

In response, Marcos said, "Well, in the same way that we maintain our relationship with the US, we constantly consult with our allies and partners. We constantly keep our lines of communications open."

He reiterated the importance of having direct communication with Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as other important Chinese officials to avoid misunderstandings on various issues.

"I suggested that we institute a system wherein we have a direct contact, one president to the other, and in that way, no matter if I cannot speak for example to President Xi himself, I have someone that I can pick up the phone and call who I know and I have confidence in making my message to the President. And this works, of course, both ways," Marcos said.

"If the President of the People’s Republic would like a message to arrive to me then we have a system in place, we are — we have a system in place to achieve that and we are still working on it, our Secretary of Foreign Affairs is working on the details of that — well I refer to it as a hotline really," he added.

"And hopefully that soon, we will have that in place, we will have that functioning and in that way —  disengagement is really not an option." 

His response came after the incident in Spratly Islands where a Filipino and a Chinese vessel nearly crashed.

Marcos also said the Philippines would maintain its foreign policy of being "a friend to all and enemy to none" as he cited the significance of engaging with ASEAN member-states and other Asian nations.

"Our foreign policy is almost simplistic when I describe it because our foreign policy is based on the pursuit of peace, our foreign policy is based on the promotion of our national interest," he said.

"That seems the only way because we certainly do not want to provoke a more serious situation than it is already now. We certainly do not want to cause an incident by misjudgment, by mistake, that will elevate the conflict from what it is now to a higher level." —KBK, GMA Integrated News