Philippines’ Marcos says South China Sea keeps him ‘up at night’

Tensions in the South China Sea keep Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. up at night, he told participants of the World Economic Forum in Davos, amid an increased presence of Chinese and US warships in the disputed region.

The South China Sea is a strategic and resource-rich waterway claimed by China almost in its entirety, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that dismissed Beijing’s claims. Other countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, also have overlapping claims.

“It’s very dynamic, it’s constantly in flux, so you have to pay attention to it,” Marcos said during a session with WEF President Borge Brende on Wednesday evening.

The situation, he said, “keeps you up at night, keeps you up in the day, keeps you up most of the time.”

Chinese activity in the area has recently increased and last month Manila boosted its military presence in the region after reports that China had started taking several unoccupied land features within Philippine waters.

The tensions come as China is at loggerheads with the US — a Philippine ally that is also trying to increase its influence in Southeast Asia.

“We’re at the very frontline and so whenever these tensions increase, when the ships come out, the Chinese and their coast guard vessels, the Americans answer…we’re watching as bystanders,” Marcos said.

“If something goes wrong here, we are going to suffer.”

He added, however, that the Philippine foreign policy was a “commitment to peace.”

When Marcos made his first state visit to Beijing earlier this month, the South China Sea issue was discussed in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and they agreed to resolve maritime disagreements through “friendly consultations.”

“We cannot…sweep it under the rug and pretend it’s not happening because there are effects not only in the diplomatic sense, not only in the security sense but even in the livelihood of our citizens,” the Philippine president said.

Two weeks later in Davos, Marcos acknowledged that the situation was very dynamic and complex and that “there are no simple solutions.”

But the Philippines had “no conflicting claims with China,” he added.

“What we have is China making claims on our territory.”