Philippines, China to discuss fishing rights in South China Sea-Marcos

·2-min read
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers speech on the 126th founding anniversary of the Philippines army

MANILA (Reuters) -Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said China has agreed to discuss fishing rights in the South China Sea, as he pushed for a "direct communication line" with Beijing on maritime differences.

China has agreed to "sit down" and talk about Filipinos' fishing rights in the South China Sea, Marcos said, adding he has asked the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of Foreign Affairs "to put together...a map of these fishing grounds" that will be presented to Beijing.

In remarks made to reporters while on board a plane to Washington, Marcos also said a Philippines-China "direct communication line" must be finally adopted, when asked about his thoughts on a recent maritime confrontation between the two countries.

"The overall priority is to safeguard our maritime territory," he said, in remarks issued by his office on Monday.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Philippines accused China's coastguard on Friday of "aggressive tactics" following a recent incident during a Philippine coastguard patrol close to the Philippines-held Second Thomas Shoal, a flashpoint for previous altercations located 105 nautical miles (195 km) off its coast.

The United States has urged China to stop harassing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, while Beijing said it was willing to handle maritime differences with countries of concern through friendly consultations, while warning Washington against interference.

"This is the kind of thing that… we're hoping to avoid, that this time it was a little more dangerous because they were close," Marcos said. "That can cause casualties on both sides."

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, with a "nine-dash line" on maps that stretches more than 1,500 km (930 miles) off its mainland and cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. An international arbitral ruling in 2016 dismissed that line as having no legal basis.

Ahead of his May 1 meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, Marcos also said he would not allow his country to become a "staging post" for military action.

China has said Manila was stoking the fire of regional tensions after it recently granted Washington access to more military bases in the Philippines, as Beijing accused the United States of interfering in its affairs with Taiwan.

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Alex Richardson)