Bongbong says pingpong diplomacy may resolve sea row

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

MANILA – A different form of engagement with China – like through sports or cultural exchange – might help the Philippines resolve its maritime spat with the Asian giant, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Friday.

In a roundtable discussion with TV5, Marcos said the Philippines can take pointers from the so-called pingpong diplomacy that set the stage for improved relations between the US and China in the 1970s.

The exchange of table tennis players between the US and China may have helped thaw relations between the two countries, according to some historians.

Marcos, who is running for vice president, said while the filing of a case against China before the international court is laudable, it is not enough.

“We can make our case before the UN but we will not win anything, we can just expose our case but there will be no winner,” he said.

The senator said the government must reach out to China through other informal channels like business or cultural exchanges or even sports, and that it should not abandon bilateral discussions on the West Philippine Sea issue.

He said in the past, Chinese and Filipino fishermen would often meet on certain islands in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea to share food and drinks.

“We can no longer do that these days but we can request that our fishermen and their Chinese counterparts bond together instead of being hostile to one another,” Marcos said.

The senator said the Chinese government has expressed its desire to discuss the maritime issue with Manila based on international law.

“We must grab that opportunity, it’s now time that we talk to China, we are a small nation, we will be hurt and we will be caught in the middle if conflict between China and US escalates,” Marcos said.