PROCLAIMED. Congress, sitting as National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), proclaims Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the country’s new president and Sara Duterte as vice president-elect at the House of Representatives session hall at Batasan Pambansa, Quezon City on Wednesday (May 25, 2022). The UniTeam’s tandem won by a landslide with Marcos garnering 31.6 million votes and Duterte earning 32.2 million votes in the last May 9 polls. (MNS photo)

MANILA, May 26 (Mabuhay) — President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Thursday said his administration would defend the country’s sovereignty by talking to China  “with a firm voice.”

“Our sovereignty is sacred and we will not compromise it in any way,” Marcos said in his first press briefing after his proclamation by Congress, stressing that when it comes to the country’s sovereignty, there should be “no room for negotiation there.”

China has declared massive territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

Manila has renamed parts of the waters that fall within its territory as West Philippine Sea.

Speaking about the West Philippine Sea, Marcos said under his rule, the country “will not allow a single square, and maybe make it even more smaller, single square millimeter of our maritime coastal and up to 200 kilometers rights to be trampled upon.”

“We’re talking about China and how do we do that? We talk to China consistently with a firm voice,” he said.

The son of the late dictator and his namesake, Marcos said the Philippines need not go to war with China to assert its claim over the vast West Philippine Sea.

“That (war) is the last thing we need right now,” he said. “So we have to continue to discuss with them the conflicting claims that we have with China and that China has with other members of the ASEAN.”

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, following a case filed by the Philippines, invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the waters.

Beijing, which boycotted the hearings, does not recognize the ruling.

Despite repeated calls and protests from the Philippines, Chinese ships continue to linger in West Philippine Sea and have even been spotted in other parts of the Kalayaan Island Group in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan off the country’s northwestern waters.

China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea demonstrates its resolve to assert claims over the waters, while ignoring calls from several countries backing the Philippines, such as the United States, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand to leave and cease raising tensions in the area.

Meanwhile, also during Thursday’s briefing, Marcos announced latest additions to his Cabinet, namely Benjamin Diokno, Felipe Medalla, Fred Pascual, Manny Bonoan and Anton Lagdameo. 

He also shared his thoughts on the mega trade deal Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in which the Philippines is a signatory; and the alleged corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs. (MNS)

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