Filipino fishermen should have access to fishing grounds in the South China Sea, President Marcos yesterday told Chinese President Xi Jinping here during their meeting where they again reaffirmed commitment to dialogue but admitted challenges remain.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Marcos said he relayed to Xi his concern over recent incidents involving Chinese and Philippine vessels that ended in actual collision near the Ayungin Shoal last October.
He expressed hope that the two countries would find ways to avoid such incidents, during their meeting held on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here.
'And of course, as ever, whenever this issue comes up, I always bring up the plight of our fishermen. And I asked that we go back to the situation where both Chinese and Filipino fishermen were fishing together in these waters. And so, I think the point was well taken by President Xi,' Marcos said.
'And of course, as ever, whenever this issue comes up, I always bring up the plight of our fishermen. And I asked that we go back to the situation where both Chinese and Filipino fishermen were fishing together in these waters. And so, I think the point was well taken by President Xi.'
Marcos said he and Xi tried to come up with mechanisms to lower tensions in the South China Sea.
The two leaders also agreed that the problems related to the maritime dispute should not be the defining element of their countries' relationship.
'But nonetheless, the problems remain and it is something that we will need to continue to communicate to find ways to avoid such incidents,' Marcos said.
Asked whether the meeting, which was requested by Manila, would prod China to refrain from changing its narratives on the dispute, Marcos replied: 'We really should view this as a work in progress. It's a process. There is no one thing that we will do that will solve all the problems.'
'We have to continue to communicate. We have to continue to be candid with one another and to be sincere in our desire to keep the peace. And I think that sincerity exists for all parties involved,' he added.
Marcos acknowledged that a discussion or agreement would not put an end to the dispute. 'I do not think anybody wants to go to war,' he said.
'And so that is something that - is the premise actually to everything - all the discussions that we have been having, how to maintain the peace so that the sea lanes and the airways over the South China Sea are open and continued to be the important gateway to Asia as it is today.'
Marcos said it is important that he was able to talk to Xi 'and that always makes a difference.'
It was the third time Marcos met with Xi since becoming president last year. Cases of Chinese harassment and provocations continue despite previous commitments by Beijing to ease tensions in the area.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, a claim invalidated in 2016 by an arbitral tribunal based in The Hague. Beijing has vowed not to honor the ruling, which it calls 'illegal.'
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