PBBM, Harris tackle ways to maintain peace in WPS

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and United States Vice President Kamala Harris have discussed ways to maintain peace in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). In a video message uploaded on his official Facebook account on Friday, Marcos confirmed his meeting with Harris on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California on Thursday (Manila time). 'She (Harris) was very interested to know what our assessment was on the situation in the West Philippines Sea, and I just went through the narrative of what had happened in the past few months,' Marcos said. 'And we tried to discuss some of the ways forward and I think that generally speaking, especially after my meeting with President Xi, which I'm going to have some time today. After that, we will put together the ways forward because we are continuously trying to maintain the peace.' The WPS issue was tackled in the wake of China's aggressive actions in the Philippine waters. Marcos said he would also talk to Chi nese President Xi Jinping to prevent conflict in the WPS. For now, he said, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine military, and the entire government are doing their best to promote peace. 'It is our basic fundamental mission here - to maintain the peace. And that is essentially what we discussed. Again, we will get the view of the Chinese President on what we can do to bring down the temperature, to not escalate the situation in the West Philippine Sea,' the President said. Marcos said his administration would find ways to assess 'for the near future on what the Philippines' role will be or what is the proper Philippines' role in the West Philippine Sea.' In a separate statement, the White House said Harris reaffirmed the US' commitment to stand with the Philippines in the face of China's actions in the WPS. 'The Vice President reiterated the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder in defending the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea,' the statement read. Harris also cited Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which provides that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea (SCS), would invoke US mutual defense commitments. Marcos and Harris also reiterated the two nations' commitment to upholding international rules and norms, including in the SCS. Strong alliance Marcos and Harris also renewed the Philippines' and the US' strong ties, the White House said. 'They reaffirmed the strength of the alliance between the United States and the Philippines and discussed ongoing efforts to deepen our security ties and expand commercial and economic cooperation,' it said. The two also discussed strengthening and broadening economic cooperation bilaterally and through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. They also welcomed the conclusion of a historic '123' civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which will deepen the two countries' partnership to build a global clean energy ec onomy and strengthen their shared commitment to improving energy security and advancing the global nonproliferation regime. 'The Vice President announced the launch of the '123' agreement negotiations while in Manila in November 2022 and welcomed the swift conclusion of these negotiations,' the White House said. 'This agreement will provide the legal basis for US exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines, which will support American workers and businesses.' Harris also emphasized the importance of respect for human rights and labor rights, including safety for trade union leaders. This is the fifth meeting between Marcos and Harris. They met during Harris' visit to Manila in November 2022; Marcos' visit to the Naval Observatory in May 2023; a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Jakarta in September 2023; and a trilateral meeting with Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Jakarta in September 2023. Source: Philippines News Agency