Philippines’ Imee Marcos unveils foreign policy, South China Sea stance at US forum
- ‘Do not make us choose between the US and China,’ warns Marcos as she presents seven-point plan, advocates engagement with Beijing
- President’s sister also calls for US-Philippine defence pacts to be ‘re-examined’, expansion of new trade opportunities
Philippine Senator Imee Marcos last week presented a “seven-point plan” on her country’s foreign policy at a forum attended by US officials and envoys from various embassies, during which she made a strong statement: “Do not make us choose between the US and China.”
As head of the senate’s foreign relations committee, Marcos “specifically advocated a softer line on the maritime disputes” during her Washington trip, according to a source who attended the September 26 forum sponsored by the US-Philippine Society and Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Forum.
Key areas of her seven-point plan included exploration of regional multilateral defence arrangements, expansion of new trade opportunities, deep-sea fishing access and cooperation under the 2022 Chips Act.
She also asked for “improvements in social protections and public safety nets” but praised the US Agency for International Development and US Public Health Service on disaster relief.
She told the audience she had submitted her plan to her brother but did not say what the president thought of it, according to media reports.
Marcos’ speech came a month after she had publicly chided Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo for filing “too many” diplomatic protests against the incursions of Chinese coastguard and fishermen’s vessels in the Philippines’ EEZ.
“What’s the point of sending hundreds and hundreds of protests with no palpable success?” she had questioned Secretary Manalo during the September 8 hearing conducted by her committee.
“It’s becoming shameful that China is just ignoring all these. This is leading to a loss of dignity and respect. This doesn’t seem to be good for us,” she told Manalo in the same hearing.
The Washington forum, billed as “a private event”, was not live-streamed or recorded, according to the same source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to the senator’s own press release dated October 2, Imee Marcos “did not mince words” during her speech.
A separate press release on the event by the US-Philippine Society noted that Marcos’ remarks echoed recent statements by her brother on the “importance to the new administration of strengthened bilateral ties with the US”.
The senator also said the Philippines should “open the door to broad engagement with China”, but stressed that Southeast Asian nations “prefer a ‘rational approach’ in relations between Washington and Beijing, not a return to the ‘melodrama’ of the Cold War, [so] ‘do not make us choose between China and the US’.”
Marcos called for the “re-examination” of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defence Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, but later clarified that she was “not calling for a revision of the MDT or VFA, but an examination of how language in those agreements is implemented”. She also wanted to know the “progress on implementing the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement”.
“China has come out against participation of so-called non regional powers, reference to The Hague award, and enforcement provisions,” he said.
Baja suggested prioritising a code of conduct among Asean member states instead of one binding Asean and China, which Beijing had been stalling by saying it would back it only “when the time is right”.