Philippines Marcos says does not endorse Taiwan independence, seeks to avoid conflict

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said he does not endorse Taiwan independence and reiterated his country was committed to its One-China policy, a response to China’s outrage over recent remarks in congratulating Taiwan’s election winner.

Marcos said in an interview with GMA News TV aired on Tuesday that his congratulatory comment to Lai Ching-te earlier this month, where he referred to him as president, was a “common courtesy”.

“The One-China policy remains in place. We have adhered to the One-China policy strictly and conscientiously since we adopted (it),” Marcos said.

“We are not endorsing Taiwanese independence. Taiwan is a province of China.”

The congratulatory message, however, drew a sharp rebuke from China, with its foreign ministry spokesperson telling Marcos last week to “read more books to properly understand the ins and outs of the Taiwan issue”.

That prompted a fierce response from the Philippines defence minister, who criticised the Chinese official for “low and gutter-level talk”.

Marcos in the interview added he was for peace and “does not want conflict” in the region.

The Philippines and China have been at loggerheads this past year, coinciding with Marcos making overtures to defence ally the United States, including widening base access to the U.S. military.

China has seen that as a provocation and part of a challenge by Washington to its Taiwan policy.

The Philippines and Taiwan have unofficial ties as both maintain an “economic and cultural office” in Taipei and Manila serving as a de facto embassy.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)