February 9, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Trade, sovereignty among the issues in the Philippines-China bilateral talks

BANGKOK, Thailand — Trade, investment and sovereignty issues are among the issues set to be discussed at the bilateral meeting between leaders of the Philippines and China later Thursday afternoon, a senior official said.

Speaker of the House Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who will attend the discussions, said among those expected to be in attendance are his cousin President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Secretary of State Enrique Manalo and Secretary of Commerce Alfredo Pascual.

“I am sure that of course we will talk about many issues since this is APEC, the economic issues will of course be in the foreground,” Romualdez told reporters in an interview on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Marcos is scheduled to meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) announced earlier Thursday.

“Trade and investment and those that relate to the current level of what we have right now and how we can improve it and even improve it, I think that’s going to be the main push in the APEC milieu,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez said sovereignty issues could also be raised after the president said just last week he hopes to discuss issues related to the West Philippine Sea with his Chinese counterpart.

“Regarding the West Philippine Sea issue, I think the position is very clear,” he said.

Latest data from the Philippines Statistics Administration (PSA) shows that China was the Philippines’ fifth-largest export trading partner with $905.07 million, or 12.6% of total shipments from the country in September.

In terms of imports, China was the top source of goods for the Philippines, supplying around US$2.39 billion, or 20.0% of total imports for the month.

This comes nearly a decade after the Philippines challenged China over its claims to the West Philippine Sea in 2013, where Manila achieved a victory and a landmark ruling from an international tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims.

China has refused to honor the ruling and was accused by the Philippine Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as recently as last June of illegal fishing and preventing local vessels from conducting a supply mission to the Ayungin Shoal.

“Of course we’ll start with the one-China policy, which makes everyone happy, that’s clear. That’s the underlying principle,” Romualdez said.

“Regarding the concerns, the problems there, I think we have the arbitration ruling that has been repeated in ASEAN by many other partner nations, and so we don’t even have to go there anymore because that has already been established,” he added added .

Solicited for comment on Arroyo’s role in the bilateral meeting, Romualdez said she had long served as an advisor to Marcos and would continue to act in an advisory capacity.

“PGMA is definitely a big advantage. Her reputation, her track record needs no introduction, and her advice, her advice to our President, President Marcos, is invaluable right now,” he said.

“PGMA has always been a good advisor to President Marcos. President Marcos respects PGMA very much because she has a lot of experience, she was a brilliant President, very experienced,” he added.

Marcos said just last week he told Chinese officials on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit to uphold international law and follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) decision regarding the disputed areas.

The bilateral meeting also comes days ahead of United States Vice President Kamala Harris’ scheduled visit to the Philippine islands of Palawan, on the edge of the disputed waters.

“I think that’s all very good and the Philippines will play a very important role in making sure there is a balance in terms of presence in the region,” Romualdez said. -NB, GMA Integrated messages