By Mikhail Flores and Neil Jerome Morales

MANILA (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked his Philippine counterpart on Monday for Manila’s participation in a high-level peace summit later this month, describing it as a “very strong signal” towards achieving peace in the war-torn nation.

In their first-in person meeting in Manila, Zelenskiy also thanked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr for his country’s “clear position” on Russia’s “occupation of our territories,” while the Philippine leader assured him of his continued support.

“I’m happy to hear today from you that you participate (in) our basic steps to the peace,” Zelenskiy told Marcos during their bilateral meeting, speaking in English. He thanked Marcos for Manila’s participation in the peace summit, saying “it’s a very strong signal.”

It was not immediately clear if Marcos would attend the summit or if he would send an envoy.

“Thank you so much (for) your big word, and clear position… about this Russian occupation of our territories,” he said, adding that Ukraine will open an embassy in Manila this year.

Wearing a black shirt and olive fatigues, Zelenskiy arrived at the presidential palace on Monday after an unscheduled appearance at Asia’s biggest security conference in Singapore during the weekend to drum up support for the two-day peace summit in Switzerland.

Marcos delivered the keynote address at the security forum, criticising what he described as illegal, coercive and aggressive actions by “other actors” in the South China Sea – a censure of China, although he didn’t name the country.

Marcos told Zelenskiy he was “honoured” the Ukrainian leader was visiting Manila.

“It’s a great pleasure to meet, to discuss, issues that are common for both countries, and hopefully, we find ways for both of us together,” Marcos said.

Russia, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”, has not been invited to the June 15-16 summit to be hosted by the Swiss government. Russia has dismissed the talks as meaningless without its participation.

© Reuters. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shakes hands with Philippine President Ferdinand

While in Singapore, Zelenskiy told a news conference that he was not able to meet the Chinese delegation at the conference and was disappointed that Beijing, a Moscow ally, would not attend the summit.

Zelenskiy has urged U.S. President Joe Biden to attend, although Washington has yet to confirm who it will send.