Manny Pacquiao

Pacquiao to form ‘peace panel’ to resolve West Philippine Sea row if elected president

MANILA, Philippines — Boxing champion-turned-presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao said he will create a “peace panel” to resolve the maritime dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea if he wins in the May polls.

“I talked to the ambassador of China and he said the problem should be discussed. Therefore, we need to form a peace panel that will focus on the issue,” Pacquiao said in Filipino at a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines Wednesday.

The standard bearer of the Progressive Movement for the Devolution of Initiatives (PROMDI) said the panel will be composed of “capable” people and experts on the West Philippine Sea.

Pacquiao said that while the goal of his presidency is to be a friend to all countries, the Chinese government should not abuse and trample on the rights of Filipinos.

Last year, Pacquiao asked Beijing to withdraw some 220 Chinese militia vessels swarming Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, saying the presence of ships created tension and harbored divisiveness in the region.

After he found President Rodrigo Duterte’s stand on the maritime dispute lacking, the chief executive criticized the senator’s “shallow knowledge” about foreign policy.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated Beijing’s expansive “nine-dash-line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea. China does not recognize the tribunal’s decision.

Strengthen accords with US
If elected to the top post, Pacquiao said he will strengthen the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

But Pacquiao said he will only ask help from allies in solving the maritime dispute if the lives of Filipinos are already at risk.

The former ally of Duterte also said he is open to rejoining the International Criminal Court and allowing its investigators into the country.

Pacquiao tied with Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” at the third spot in a survey released by Pulse Asia Sunday, with just 8% of voter support.

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