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Marcos thanks Australia for backing PH in WPS issue

President Marcos Jr. thanked Australia for standing with the Republic of the Philippines amid the ongoing tension in the West Philippine Sea.

President Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' Marcos Jr. on Thursday thanked Australia for "standing with the Republic of the Philippines" amid the ongoing tension in the West Philippine Sea.

That's amid China's claims in most of the South China Sea including parts of the waters within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone which have been renamed the West Philippine Sea.

''We have an abiding interest in keeping our seas free and open and in ensuring unimpeded passage and freedom of navigation. We must uphold, preserve, and defend the unified and universal character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the constitution of the oceans,'' said Marcos in his address before Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Australian lawmakers.

Marcos on Wednesday described as "worrisome" the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea, including the presence of the Chinese navy and interference on the electronic communication capabilities of Philippine vessels.

Tensions between China and the Philippines increased recently as the two countries traded accusations such as alleged intrusion, shadowing, blocking, and performing dangerous maneuvers.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected. 

''We draw strength from the consistent and unequivocal support of Australia and the international community for the lawful exercise of our rights, which have been settled under international law. And so, on behalf of the Filipino people, I thank you, Australia, for standing with the Republic of the Philippines,'' Marcos said in his speech. 

Marcos also said that the Philippines and Australia should oppose actions that ''clearly denigrate the rule of law'' as he sought for the latter's support in addressing challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. 

He added that the depth and breadth of the security cooperation between the Philippines and Australia could be demonstrated through regular exchanges between the two nations' armed forces and coast guards, including in the areas of maritime security, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

Economic cooperation

During his speech, Marcos also discussed the possibility of boosting economic ties with Australia.

''We collaborate to strengthen and seek new business links, to bolster our economic security, and to develop responses to economic coercion,'' Marcos said. 

''We work together to promote and enhance the flow of environmentally sustainable investment and to explore cooperation on mineral resources development and climate and energy transition, amongst others. Indeed, we have made good progress since we signed our strategic partnership last year,'' he added. 

He said the partnership ''finds its anchor in our common commitment to ensuring that this region keeps to the path of peace, builds resilience, remains focused on delivering dividends to our citizens and our communities.'' 

Marcos said the Philippine government sees Australia as an indispensable part of the Pacific community, a permanent stakeholder in the future of Asia, and a reliable supporter of the ASEAN Centrality.

''In Australia we see a natural partner in our efforts to defend, to preserve, to uphold our open, inclusive, and rules-based international order, to ensure that it remains governed by international law and informed by the principles of equity and justice,'' he said. 

''In Australia we see a lifelong friend with whom we have endured joint sacrifices, reveled in our shared victories, and now pursue common aspirations,'' Marcos added.

Marcos will be in Melbourne next week to participate in the ASEAN-Australia SpecialSummit. —VAL, GMA Integrated News