President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines says his country’s ties with China will “shift to a higher gear” when he takes office, signaling his intention to promote outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte’s pro-Beijing agenda.
Mr Marcos, who won a landslide election last week, said he had “quite substantial” phone talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, who assured him of support for his “independent foreign policy” and agreed to more detailed negotiations.
Mr Xi also acknowledged his late father’s efforts in establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations, according to the 64-year-old son and namesake of the brutal former Philippines dictator.
“The way forward is to strengthen our relationship not just diplomatically, not only commercially, but also in culture, education, knowledge, and health to address whatever little disputes we currently have,” Mr Marcos said in a statement.
“I warned him that we must not allow the current disagreements or challenges between our two countries to become historically significant.”
Mr Marcos has been in Melbourne this week, apparently to assist his youngest son in settling into his studies at the University of Melbourne.
On Tuesday, some members of Australia’s Filipino community demonstrated outside the hotel where Mr Marcos was rumored to be staying.
According to a spokeswoman, the president-elect will return to Manila on Thursday.
In recent years, the Philippines and China have had a tense relationship due to Beijing’s expansive territorial claims and the actions of its coast guard and fishing fleets in the South China Sea, through which at least $4.84 trillion in yearly trade passes.
Their phone chat centered on bilateral relations and regional growth, according to a separate statement from the Chinese embassy in Manila.
“President Xi said the two countries should also comprehend the general trend, tell a magnificent story on the China-Philippines friendship in the new era, and follow through on the blueprint for bilateral friendly cooperation,” the embassy stated.
Mr Marcos was elected president with roughly 59% of the vote last week. He will assume office at the end of June.
Many observers expect Marcos to seek closer connections with Beijing, but they also believe that maintaining close ties with defense ally Washington will be critical in keeping the military and the public on board in a country with traditionally strong ties to the US.
China was among the first to congratulate Marcos, who became the first president to win an outright majority in a presidential election since his late father’s two-decade dictatorship was overthrown in 1986.
Kurt Campbell, the White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, stated last week that the US will seek early contact with the Marcos administration, but that “historical issues” could pose obstacles.
Mr. Marcos stated that Mr. Xi expressed a desire to speak privately.
“We both look forward to continuing our dialogue,” Mr Marcos added.
“He stated we should chat without the others.”