After US President Joe Biden called presumptive President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to congratulate him on his apparent win in the election, another leader of one of the world’s superpowers has picked up the phone to speak with the former senator. President Xi Jinping of China recently spoke with Marcos Jr. to discuss bilateral relations between the Philippines and China, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines confirmed.
According to the embassy’s readout of the call, Xi called Marcos Jr. a “builder, supporter, and promoter of the China-Philippines friendship” and urged the poll frontrunner to continue the relationship and “write a grand story on the China-Philippines friendship in the new era and follow through the blueprint for bilateral friendly cooperation, so as to usher in an even brighter future for the bilateral ties.”
Meanwhile, Marcos said in a statement that he and China’s head of state discussed the future of relations between both countries.
“It wasn’t the typical congratulatory message. We discussed a lot of things. We talked about the way forward for the China-Philippine relationship. So it was very good, very substantial,” Marcos Jr. said.
The presumptive President-elect also said that he proposed that China and the Philippines expand their relations beyond bilateral trade to include culture, education, knowledge, and health.
It’s an interesting development considering the elephant in the room: the maritime dispute over territories in the West Philippine Sea, which has long been a thorny issue between China and the Philippines. China has continued to ignore the 2016 Hague tribunal ruling that unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines, recognizing the country’s rights over areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, and said that China had no historical claims on the South China Sea. China has since contested the ruling, asserting that the area belongs to them based on the contentious nine-dash claim over virtually the entire South China Sea.
China has continued to strong-arm its way in Philippine waters, as seen in ABS-CBN News footage recorded in November of two Filipino civilian boats being blocked and sprayed with water cannons by two Chinese coast guard vessels while they were on a resupply mission for troops aboard the Filipino BRP Sierra Madre ship within the country’s Kalayaan Islands group. This forced the Philippines to lodge a diplomatic protest against the East Asian giant.
Filipino fishermen have also been reportedly continuously harassed by Chinese coast guard vessels in the disputed waters.