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Marcos: PH to change strategy in countering Chinese aggression

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the Philippines needs to change its strategy in countering Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea because diplomatic efforts are making "very little progress."

Current diplomatic efforts with China, the President said, are heading “in a poor direction.”

"Well, [up] to this point, we have resorted to the traditional methods of diplomacy where, should there be an incident, we send [a] note verbale. Our embassy will send a démarche to the Foreign Affairs (Ministry) office in Beijing, but we have been doing this for many years now, with very little progress," Marcos told Japanese media on Saturday.

"We have to do something that we have not done before. We have to come up with a new concept, a new principle, a new idea so that we move, as I say, we move the needle the other way. Let's move the needle back, so that paradigm shift is something that we have to formulate," said Marcos, who was in Japan to attend the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Relations.

Just last week, the China Coast Guard (CCG) fired water cannons at Philippine vessels on a regular rotation and resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

This was preceded by a similar incident involving vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which were headed to Scarborough Shoal for the distribution of oil and supplies to local fishing communities.

To diffuse tensions in the West Philippine Sea, the President said the Philippines will continue to engage with partners in the Indo-Pacific region and "the rest of the world," if necessary.

Marcos said, "We do not want to go [to] the point where there are incidents that might cause an actual violent conflict. Maybe from a mistake or a misunderstanding and these things happen all the time."

"And so, we have, in my review, it's time that the countries that feel that they have an involvement in this situation, we have to come up with a paradigm shift," he said.

The President said there were a lot of ideas regarding the paradigm shift, but noted that current efforts would include talking to the country's partners to come up with a joint position.

"We have to bring all of those ideas together and to change the direction that these incidents have taken us. We have to stop going that way. We've gone down the wrong road. We have to disengage and find ourselves a more peaceful road to go down," Marcos said.

"We have, as I have said, the consensus that we must continue to promote peace, but we have to decide amongst ourselves what part each of us plays and what we can play, what we are willing to play," he added.

"So, and put that—put all of those elements together so that we have a, so that we have a good plan that will take us as I've said, down, not the road to conflict, but down the road to peace," the President said.

Meanwhile, China is ready to work with the Philippines through dialogue, China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The recent development in the South China Sea is the fault of the Philippines but relations between the two countries are not all about disputes, the ministry said in response to the Marcos' comment on bilateral ties.

Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing on Tuesday that China is willing to properly manage differences through dialogue and consultation.

"We will not close the door to dialogue and contact with the Philippines," he said when asked about Marcos' comments.

No need to expel Chinese envoy

In his trip to Japan, President Marcos said there was no need to expel Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, despite clamor from some Filipino lawmakers to send the envoy back to Beijing.

The President said Huang's job as ambassador is to take Bejing's position on issues, so the diplomat has just been "doing his job."

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in July 2016 upheld the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippines Sea. It also recognized that Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank were located within the Philippines' EEZ, as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The same Hague-based court also junked China's expansive claim of having sovereignty over the entirety of the South China Sea, but Beijing has been adamant in ignoring the court ruling. — VDV/RSJ, GMA News Online