Philippine President stands firm on South China Sea rights in face of Chinese “aggression”

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

5th March 2024 – (Sydney) President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines has publicly declared a steadfast position on defending his nation’s territory in the South China Sea during a policy address at the Lowy Institute in Melbourne. His comments on Monday come amidst rising tensions with China, which he accused of aggressive and illegal activities in pursuit of expansive territorial claims.

China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea—a vital maritime route for international shipping—clashes with the territorial assertions of several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei, all of whom lay claim to parts of the region’s islands, reefs, and underwater resources.

In the midst of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Melbourne, President Marcos Jr. stated that the defense of the Philippines’ South China Sea territory was not a matter of choice but a necessity. “We must defend the territory of the republic,” he declared, emphasizing the paramount duty of a leader to uphold the country’s territorial integrity.

The president’s remarks follow a recent incident where Philippine officials reported that Chinese coast guard ships had blocked and collided with Philippine vessels near a disputed shoal, escalating the already tense situation.

Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo called for regional solidarity in adhering to international law in the South China Sea, referencing a 2016 arbitration ruling in The Hague which dismissed Beijing’s extensive territorial claims, a decision that China has refused to recognize.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, in support of the ASEAN nations’ stance, highlighted the need to uphold international laws to prevent conflict and foster strategic trust. She revealed Australia’s commitment to invest 40 million Australian dollars to enhance maritime partnerships in the region, promoting security and prosperity, and noted the importance of strategic partnerships, as demonstrated by joint sea and air patrols with the Philippines.

Amid these developments, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning deflected accusations of harassment, asserting China’s right to safeguard its sovereignty and interests. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has previously indicated that China will continue to exert military pressure over the contested waters.