Says China Coast Guard actions making WPS ‘more dire than before’
A day after meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, President Marcos on Sunday (Monday in Manila) slammed “persistent, unlawful threats” by the Chinese Coast Guard in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which he said were making the situation in the West Philippine Sea “more dire than it was before.”
“Tensions in the West Philippine Sea are growing, with persistent unlawful threats and challenges against Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, actions that violate obligations under international law,” Mr. Marcos said at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii on the last day of his US visit.
The President told attendees at a roundtable briefing that China’s “coercive tactics and dangerous maneuvers” against the Philippines’ routine resupply missions to the Ayungin Shoal put people’s lives at risk and challenged the rule of law.
He also noted “rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea.”
Moreover, the President said that China has expressed interest in atolls and shoals that are “increasingly close” to the Philippines’ coast, with the nearest atoll being about 60 nautical miles (111 kilometers) away.
“Unfortunately, I cannot report that the situation is improving, the situation has become more dire than it was before,” the President said.
Mr. Marcos reiterated that the Philippines would not yield an inch of its territory amid the territorial dispute with China.
“As I have said before, and I will say again, the Philippines will not give up a single square inch of our territory to any foreign power,” he said.
He vowed to continue adhering to international rules-based order and to enhance the Philippines’ alliances with its partners.
“The law is clear as defined by UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the final and binding 2016 Award on the South China Sea Arbitration,” the President said.
“Supported by the rules-based international order and our growing partnerships, both time-tested and new ones, we will insist on the preservation of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, while working closely with international partners in the bilateral, regional, and multilateral settings in developing rules and processes to address these challenges,” he added.
The growing tension in the West Philippine Sea has required a partnership with the United States, which would maintain peace in the resource-rich region, the President said.
“The United States is our, I would say, our oldest and most traditional partner and that has been in various forms, ongoing over a hundred years. And I think, it serves as well to remember that the United States is the Philippines’ only treaty partner,” Mr. Marcos said.
“The heightening tension in the West Philippine Sea, as we have named it — it is generally known as the South China Sea — the increasing tensions in the South China Sea requires that we partner with our allies and our friends around the world, so as to come to some kind of resolution and to maintain the peace,” he added.
Mr. Marcos said he approached Malaysia and Vietnam to discuss a separate code of conduct regarding the South China Sea as Beijing continues expanding its presence in the region.
“We are still waiting for the code of conduct between China and ASEAN and the progress has been rather slow unfortunately,” President Marcos said.
“We have taken the initiative to approach those other countries around ASEAN with whom we have existing territorial conflicts, Vietnam being one of them, Malaysia being another, and to make our own code of conduct,” he added.
Earlier, the President visited the United States Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he said the Philippines and the United States were assessing how they could improve capabilities and coordination in multiple spheres, encompassing military, political and economic affairs.
“Well, again, it’s a process. We are in the middle of many assessments, many discussions on how we can improve our capabilities, how we can improve our coordination with the US, not only in the military, but also the political leadership,” he said in remarks to the media after his visit.
“That encompasses not only security concerns, but also economic concerns because the thinking in this day is that you cannot be strong and you cannot be able to defend yourself if you are economically weak,” he said.
Both sides are working based on that premise, he said, noting that when security is discussed, commitments on the economy, investments, public private partnership (PPP) also come into play.
During his visit to Indopacom headquarters, the President was briefed on the regional situation and security objectives of the US and the Philippines.
Admiral John Aquilino, Indopacom commander, provided the President a restricted briefing on the state of the Indo-Pacific, the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, and the corresponding role of the Indopacom, and the capabilities that the US can provide to the Philippines in support of common security objectives.
Meanwhile, the Atin Ito! Alliance announced a musical event and a Christmas Convoy civilian supply mission to underscore public support for the fishing communities and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea
Scheduled for Nov. 29, the “Atin Ito! The West Philippine Sea Musical Event” at University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni seeks to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the fishing communities and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea. Artists, including Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel, Lolita Carbon, Bayang Barrios, Gracenote, 6CycleMind, Autotelic, Hey June, Ena Mora, Leanne and Naara are scheduled to perform.
“Through the universal language of music, we aim to inspire solidarity, empathy, and understanding, fostering a collective resolve to stand up for sovereignty and rights and welfare of our fisherfolk and frontlines,” the organizers said.
Then on Dec. 5, Atin Ito! Will embark on the “Christmas Convoy Civilian Supply Mission to the West Philippine Sea,” comprising 40 civilian boats. The convoy will deliver essential provisions to fishing communities and frontliners in the region.
“Beyond its humanitarian objectives, this mission is a bold but peaceful assertion of our nation’s sovereign rights and territorial integrity in the face of persistent aggression and incursions by China. Through this collective effort, we aim to send a resounding message of unity and resilience, standing strong against challenges to our maritime sovereignty,” the group said.
The group thanked Senator Risa Hontiveros, former senator Manny Pacquiao, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Bishop Pablo Virgilio Siongco David, retired Philippine Navy Rear Admiral Rommel Ong, Tatay, Palawan Vicar Apostolic Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and artists such as folk singer Noel Cabangon for their support.
They also acknowledged the assistance and cooperation of the Philippine Coast Guard in the preparation of the Christmas Convoy. — Charles Dantes
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