CONGRESSIONAL leaders asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to raise the issue of China’s “bullying” in the region when he meets with US President Joe Biden in Washington next week.
“In a time where there is so much tension in the region, our nation must look toward our friends who share the values of freedom and democracy as well as respect for each and every nation’s sovereignty,” said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said that all parties using parts of the South China Sea must come up with some sort of a code of conduct.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro at the House of Representatives called for measures to ensure that there will be no repeat of the incident that saw a “near-crash” between a China Coast Guard vessel and a Philippine patrol ship in the disputed South China Sea early last week.
The incident was condemned by both the Philippines and China, with Beijing blaming Manila for its “provocative and premeditated” action that resulted in the near collision.
Zubiri said he supported the President’s advocacy of creating new partnerships and strengthening old ones with the international community of nations.
Meanwhile, Pimentel described the incident that occurred in the Spratly Islands on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as a “very unfortunate incident which all should endeavor to avoid a repeat.”
The West Philippine Sea is a part of the South China Sea that Beijing has been claiming in its entirety by virtue of historical significance. The Philippines legitimized its claim over the disputed territory in 2016 after an international court ruled in its favor by recognizing its sovereign right to use the marine resources in the area.”This is the reason why those claiming and using parts of the SCS (South China Sea) and WPS must come up with some sort of a code of conduct,” Pimentel said.
“It is to the best interest of all parties to start behaving like civilized, respectful and reasonable neighbors. Start [a] dialogue. Make concrete gains, no matter how small,” the minority leader added.
On Monday, April 24, Marcos said the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) needed to evolve, and this would be part of the agenda he will raise with Biden.
“We have to evolve it. It has to evolve because it is evolving. We need to adjust it because there is evolution here; the situation we are facing in the South China Sea, the situation in Taiwan, North Korea are evolving,” Marcos said.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma. Teresita Daza in a pre-departure briefing on Friday, said the matter would actually be raised but did not mention to what extent.
Marcos, along with the members of his official delegation, will leave Manila Sunday for an official visit to Washington, D.C. from April 30 to May 4.
He is expected to meet with Biden and key Cabinet officials to discuss defense and security, particularly China’s growing influence in the Southeast Asian region, and economic concerns affecting the long-time allies.
He will promote the Philippines as a trading partner and investment market and will sit down with legislators, major US companies and business groups, said Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Daza said on Friday.
“I think for this trip, there will be a heavy emphasis in terms of the economic agenda; how the President will actually work to advance his priorities in terms of agriculture and food security, in terms of infrastructure development, in terms of renewable energy and clean energy,” Daza said.
To cap off his visit, the President will meet with the members of the Filipino community “who represent the Philippine-American diaspora in the United States numbering some 4.4 million,” she said.
In 2021, the US was the Philippines’ third largest trading partner, top export market, and fifth major import source, whereas the Philippines ranked 30th among the US’ top trade partners.
The US was also the Philippines’ fifth largest source of foreign investments in 2021, notably in the Information Technology-Business Processing Outsourcing (IT-BPO), electronics, real estate, construction, and transportation and storage sectors.
Meanwhile, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros said she expects the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest “at once” against “China’s ceaseless intimidation, torment and threats.”
Castro said that aside from a diplomatic protest, “steps must be taken to ensure that this won’t happen again.”
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said Marcos’ visit to the US will boost the confidence of investors to do business in the country.
During a media forum in Quezon City on Saturday, PEZA Deputy Director General Aleem Siddiqui Guiapal cited the long-term impact of the President’s foreign visits to PEZA’s thrust to lure more investors into the country.
The PEZA chief said although there are challenges in terms of attracting investors, they see the positive imaging being created by the chief executive via his foreign visits as an important factor in introducing the Philippines to the global market.
During the President’s US visit, Guiapal said the Philippine government will be carrying several messages to American investors that include coherence and a whole-of-the-ecosystem approach.
Several government agencies such as PEZA, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Board of Investments (BoI) are working together to harmonize the country’s investment strategy to attract more foreign businesses to come to the Philippines, he said.
Guiapal said that with Marcos’ leadership, PEZA registered in the last quarter of 2022 around $140 billion in investments, with the total number of foreign direct investment inflow coming from the US at around $10.5 million.
“That’s equivalent to the total export registered in PEZA, around 40.82 percent,” he said.
Guiapal said PEZA employed close to 400,000 employees within the economic zone and plans to increase the number of personnel by 10 percent.
Among the country’s major investors include Japan, domestic businesses, the US, the European Union and South Korea, he added.
Source : TheManilaTimes