MANILA: The administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will continue to oppose Beijing’s presence in the Philippine part of the South China Sea, the incoming national security adviser said on Friday, after over 100 vessels from Asia’s largest economy were spotted in the disputed waters.
The South China Sea is a strategic and resource-rich waterway claimed by China almost in its entirety, but other countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, also have overlapping claims.
The Philippines has filed hundreds of diplomatic protests against Chinese activity in the South China Sea in the past few years, after an international tribunal in The Hague dismissed Beijing’s sweeping claims to the region in 2016.
“We will continue to file diplomatic protests. Never mind that we are filing 10,000 of them because if we don’t, that means we acquiesce to the situation on the ground,” Clarita Carlos, nominated as Marcos’ national security adviser, said in a media briefing.
Marcos, who scored a landslide victory in last month’s presidential election, will take over the country’s top office from outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte on June 30.
Carlos’ comments followed a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy in Manila launched by the Department of Foreign Affairs against “the lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels,” which it said in a statement was “not only illegal, but is also a source of instability in the region.”
The foreign office disclosed on Thursday that Philippine authorities spotted in April “over 100 Chinese vessels illegally operating” in a part of the country’s exclusive economic zone around the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef — a year after a similar incident caused a diplomatic row.
“The Philippines calls on China to comply with its obligations under international law, cease and desist from displaying illegal and irresponsible behavior, avoid further escalating tensions at sea and immediately withdraw all of its vessels from Philippine maritime zones,” the Department of Foreign Affairs stated.
While Marcos’s immediate predecessor fostered warmer ties with China by setting aside The Hague tribunal’s ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment, the president-elect, who vowed in his campaign to embrace Duterte’s key policies, said last month he would uphold the international ruling against Beijing.
“We have a very important ruling in our favor and we will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim. It is already our territorial right,” he told the local media.
“We’re talking about China.
We talk to China consistently with a firm voice,” he said, but added: “We cannot go to war with them. That’s the last thing we need right now.”