Manila, Jan 3 (EFE).- The President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., traveled Tuesday to Beijing, where he is to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to discuss the sovereignty dispute between them in the South China Sea.
China and the Philippines look to establish “direct lines of communication” to reduce tensions, following continued incursions of Chinese ships into Philippine territorial waters in recent months, to which Manila has responded with diplomatic protests.
Before leaving for Beijing, Marcos Jr. said he hopes during his meeting with Xi, they can work together to resolve the issue and improve diplomatic ties relations.
Manila’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nathaniel Imperial said at a press conference on Friday that the two countries have agreed to sign an agreement to establish a hotline to resolve their territorial disputes, but did not provide further details.
China and the Philippines are in conflict over the ownership of several islands and atolls of the Spratly archipelago, also partially claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
However, in line with Marcos’ cautious approach since assuming power in June, Imperial underlined that maritime disputes did not define the totality of their bilateral relations with China.
The Philippine president is expected to meet with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Thursday, and hold a bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping the following day.
Marcos Jr. will be accompanied by senior officials, ministers and businessmen, as well as former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2010).
China is the largest trading partner of the Philippines. Hence, Marcos Jr. is expected to play a balancing game with Beijing, as he maintains his economic relationship with Beijing without sidestepping the territorial dispute.
Apart from the territorial issue, Marcos Jr. is expected to sign up to 14 trade agreements with China, from tourism and raw materials exploitation to a possible exploration of gas and oil in the South China Sea. EFE