By Filane Mikee Cervantes
MANILA — President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday said that the new agreement establishing a joint direct communication mechanism between the governments of China and the Philippines is geared at avoiding incidents in the West Philippine Sea.
In a media interview in Beijing, Marcos said the direct communication mechanism, which he proposed himself, would elevate to a ministerial level the official communications between Beijing and Manila.
“Ang aking proposal ay iakyat, pataasin natin ang bilateral, ang mga member ng mga bilateral. Sabi ko, ang pinakamaganda, sana ‘yung (My proposal is to raise and increase the bilateral, including the members of the bilateral. I said the best way is that) Chinese members of the bilateral group have a direct access to the President (Xi Jinping),” Marcos said.
He assured that for his part, members of the Philippine delegation for the bilateral would also have “direct contact” with him so that “nothing will be lost in translation.”
“Hindi magkakaproblema sa misinformation na maaring mangyari kapag napakatagal bago nakapag-usap kami (There will be no problem in miscommunication that may possibly happen due to delays before we can talk with each other),” Marcos said.
Marcos and Xi earlier affirmed to establish a “direct communication mechanism” to prevent possible miscommunication in the West Philippine Sea.
The two leaders announced the agreement in a joint statement released on the final day of Marcos’ official state visit to Beijing.
This communication line would be opened between the Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
The two leaders concurred that “confidence-building measures would contribute to improving mutual trust,” and reaffirmed the importance of the Foreign Ministry and Consultations and the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the West Philippine Sea.
Marcos said maintaining an open line of communication will be good for both sides, explaining that untoward incidents can be prevented if the commanders of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Navy, and their Chinese counterparts have open lines of communication.
The President considers incidents like Filipino fishermen and the Coast Guard having conflict with Chinese authorities as a result of a lack of communication.
As to the timetable, Marcos said there is already an existing mechanism involving a bilateral group tackling issues between China and the Philippines.
When asked if the agreement would result in lesser incidents or no harassment of fishermen in the contested areas like Scarborough Shoal, the President said that it is an important aspect of the relationship that China will consider.
“When we get back, the Foreign Secretary and his counterparts here in China will finalize the organization of that, and the situation with our fishermen will be number one on the agenda,” Marcos said.
Both Marcos and Xi have also reaffirmed the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in safeguarding peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea.
The two leaders cited the Joint Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the DOC, adopted in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 11, 2022.
The DOC, signed by China and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states in 2002, states that all parties would exercise self-restraint from conducting activities that complicate or heighten tension and affect peace in the region, including “refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features” in the South China Sea.
The President said his state visit to China on Jan. 3-5 was very productive and enabled him to accomplish what he intended to do.
Marcos’ trip to China was his first official visit to a non-Association of Southeast Asian Nations country in Asia. (PNA)