PBBM may touch on WPS dispute in Asia security summit in Singapore

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

May 24, 2024, 4:05 pm

<p>President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.  <em>(File photo from the Presidential Communications Office)</em></p>

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.  (File photo from the Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. might touch on the country's maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) during the upcoming Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.

In a Palace briefing, DFA's Office of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary Aileen Mendiola-Rau raised the possibility of President Marcos discussing the WPS dispute in his keynote address at the 21st Edition of the International Institute For Strategic Studies' (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue on May 31.

"I presume for all meetings and as well as the speech of the President, his keynote address, this issue will be touched but I do not wish to preempt the statements of the president," Mendiola-Rau said.

The dialogue will be attended by multiple stakeholders in the defense field ranging from heads of governments, heads of states, and defense of ministers to industry players.

Mendiola-Rau said the regional defense summit will serve as a platform for the Philippines to provide relevant stakeholders in the defense field an "important source of accurate, objective information on international strategic issues important to the region."

She said she expects representatives from about 40 countries to attend this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, ranging from heads of governments, heads of states, and defense of ministers to industry players.

"When you have a forum such as this, it gives a good platform for a country to actually expound and articulate its position on key issues. So, it will be an important platform for us to actually also convey our positions relative to what is happening within the region and what we are advocating for. So, it’s something that is useful not only for those who are attending but also for the country who’s actually participating in this international forum," she said.

Marcos will be in Singapore from May 30 to 31, where he is also expected to meet with the country's new leaders, President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Mendiola-Rau said.

"We want to ensure that the relationship continues under the new administration in Singapore," she said, noting that this year commemorates the 55 years of Philippines-Singapore diplomatic relations and the meeting between the new Singaporean leaders and President Marcos comes at this "very auspicious juncture."

The President also will have a brief meeting with the former prime minister and currently senior minister Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of the Shangri-la Dialogue.

Before his working visit in Singapore, Marcos is set to depart next week for Brunei Darussalam for his first state visit to the Sultanate.

President Marcos will visit Brunei from May 28 to 29 upon the invitation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the DFA said.

Mendiola-Rau said President Marcos’ visit to Brunei marks the 40 years of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, which was established in 1984.

“Our ties are multifaceted encompassing cooperation in defense and security, maritime, agriculture and trade, as well as people-to-people relations. The state visit is a signal of our vibrant relations as both countries conducted the joint commission for bilateral cooperation chaired by the DFA last year,” she said.

“This state visit will provide an avenue for both leaders to take stock of the progress of our commitments and ongoing bilateral undertakings, and fine tune them accordingly,” she added.

Aside from being part of the tradition of the ASEAN leaders visiting fellow ASEAN countries, this state visit is in line with the President’s commitment to continue exploring avenues for economic growth and job opportunities for Filipinos as the business forum aims to boost trade and investments in the country, she said.

The Philippines also expects agreements will be signed during the President’s visit to Brunei Darussalam.

“We are actually currently in the process of finalizing text for several MOUs. But I can inform you that the MOUs that we are working with the Brunei insight will include priority areas ranging from agriculture to food security, maritime cooperation, tourism,” Mendiola-Rau said. (PNA)