Philippine Presidential Front-Runner Shuns US Help in S China Sea Negotiations, “The problem is between China and us. If Americans come in, it is bound to fail ”Luis Liwanag and Basilio Sepe
Former Philippine Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. waves to supporters in Manila after filing paperwork to run for president in May 9 General Election, Oct. 6, 2021.
The son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos says he would dismiss any potential offer of help from longtime ally the United States in negotiations with China over the South China Sea, if elected president in May.
To seek to enforce a 2016 international arbitration court ruling that dismissed Beijing’s historical claims to the disputed waterway is no longer be feasible because China has rejected the verdict, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said during a taped television interview broadcast by the ABS-CBN network on Tuesday.
“The problem is between China and us. If Americans come in, it is bound to fail,” he said, when asked if the Philippines was strong enough to engage in a defensive war with China and how he planned to deal with Beijing.
Going to war with China over the South China Sea would not be an option and should be considered “a ludicrous idea,” he said.
Rodrigo Duterte, the outgoing Filipino president, has credited the U.S. with brokering a deal between the Philippines and China after Beijing effectively seized control of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in 2012. The Philippines left the area while China did not budge.
The United States has neither confirmed nor denied Duterte’s statement.
During the interview, Marcos Jr. erroneously pointed out that China had not signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a binding international treaty ratified by Beijing.
“[A]rbitration is no longer available to us,” he said, adding that the Philippines should “continue to engage China.”
“I would go back to the premise that we must not allow diplomacy to fail,” Marcos said. “It is the only option that we have.”
Marcos Jr., the current front-runner in local opinion polls, did not participate in weekend TV interviews with other leading presidential candidates – namely Vice President Leni Robredo, senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao and Manila city Mayor Francisco Domagoso.
On Wednesday, Robredo said the relationship with China should be based on mutual respect and adherence to international law. The 2016 court’s ruling for the Philippines was a major victory, she said.
“First, we have an arbitral ruling that found in our favor. The main summary of that ruling is that the West Philippine Sea is ours,” she said, using Manila’s name for its territories in the South China Sea.
“That is ours and we will fight for that. Having said that, the focus of all the efforts is what will be in the best interest of the Filipinos,” Robredo said in an interview that also aired on ABS-CBN. “This is not just about sovereignty, but about the livelihoods of our fishermen.”
Robredo said the Philippines should use the 2016 ruling as leverage to “create a coalition of nations who are with us in protecting the West Philippine Sea.”
“If we don’t act, why should we expect others to act on our behalf?”
Earlier this week, Lacson said he would seek to keep Manila’s South China Sea territories safe while maintaining a relationship with the U.S.
“I would ask the Philippine Coast Guard to escort our fishermen. I will also call for joint military exercises with either Australia or the U.S. since they are willing,” Lacson said during his own interview with ABS-CBN, the largest broadcaster in the Philippines.