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Ferdinand Marcos Jr. talks up naval presence to defend territorial waters from Chinese intrusion

Presidential front runner says navy may be needed to protect fisheries

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Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his team wave Philippine flags on stage during his proclamation rally promoting his presidential bid for the 2...

Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his team wave Philippine flags on stage during his proclamation rally promoting his presidential bid for the 2... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said the Philippines must build up its military presence in the South China Sea to defend its territorial waters against encroachment from China.

During a televised debate that featured three other candidates, Marcos, the frontrunner in the presidential race, said that if he is elected he may deploy naval assets to the contested waters to protect Filipino fishers’ access to the sea, according to a Reuters report. Despite this, Marcos said he will continue to engage China and opt for a diplomatic resolution to this issue over a military one.

"The reason why I spoke about putting military presence there is so the government has a presence there to show China that we are defending what we consider our territorial waters," he said.

The Philippines' current president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been widely criticized for damaging relations with Washington and failing to push back against Beijing’s intrusions into the country’s territorial waters.

Speaking on the subject, Marcos said Manila's relationship with Washington, its longstanding defense treaty ally, is special and "very important.” He said that were he to take office, he would "walk a very, very fine line" between China and the U.S.