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Marcos Touts China Ties as Sea Tensions Trigger Protests

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(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said China is his nation’s “strongest partner” in pandemic recovery, even as the foreign ministry filed fresh protests against Beijing’s presence in the South China Sea.

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The Philippines’ relationship with China is “very important” and “advantageous to both countries,” Marcos said Friday during a live-streamed event. He also pledged to pursue an independent foreign policy, while fostering people-to-people ties with Beijing.

Marcos said cooperation with others will hasten his country’s recovery from the pandemic. “We can only do it with our partners, and our strongest partner has always been -- in that regard -- our close neighbor, our good friend, the People’s Republic of China.”

The incoming leader made the statement amid renewed tensions between the two nations in the South China Sea. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said late Friday that it lodged another protest against China for alleged illegal fishing, shadowing of Philippine boats and blocking of the entrance of Second Thomas Shoal.

On Thursday, the department also announced that it had protested the return of over 100 Chinese vessels around Julian Felipe Reef.

Marcos said the differences between Manila and Beijing can be resolved if the nations “continue to communicate, and continue to be forthright in the interest of each of our countries.” He has said he will not compromise Philippine sovereignty, while eyeing a deal with China to resolve the sea row.

(Updates with Foreign Affairs department statement on South China Sea protest.)

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