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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos asserted on Thursday that his country would not succumb to pressure from Beijing, following recent clashes in the South China Sea resulting in injuries to Filipino troops and damage to vessels. Marcos’s stance emerged amidst escalating tensions as China pointed fingers at the Philippines for exacerbating the situation in the heavily disputed maritime region, which Beijing claims almost entirely.

The ongoing maritime territorial disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea have led to recurrent confrontations near contested reefs in recent months. Manila took diplomatic action by summoning a Chinese envoy over the latest incident near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands. The altercation occurred during a Philippine mission to resupply troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded navy vessel, last Saturday. The Philippines reported that the China Coast Guard obstructed its supply vessel and caused damage using water cannons, resulting in injuries to three soldiers.

China defended its actions, labeling them as “lawful regulation, interception, and expulsion” of a foreign vessel attempting to intrude forcefully into Chinese waters. Despite Beijing’s calls for Manila to desist from provoking maritime tensions, Marcos retaliated on Thursday, emphasizing the Philippines’ determination not to yield to coercion or intimidation. Marcos announced the Philippines’ intention to respond with a “countermeasure package” proportional to the perceived threats posed by the China Coast Guard and the Chinese Maritime Militia.

Asserting the Filipino resolve, Marcos underscored, “Filipinos do not yield.” China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have faced opposition from various claimants, including the Philippines, and international rulings have dismissed China’s assertions as lacking legal basis. China’s militarization efforts in the region, including the construction of artificial islands, have heightened tensions.

In a statement titled “China Will Not Allow the Philippines to Act Wilfully,” Beijing’s defense ministry blamed “the provocations by the Philippine side” for escalating tensions. The statement accused the Philippines of infringing on rights, provoking confrontations, and disseminating false information to manipulate international perceptions.

The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, reiterated its unwavering commitment to support the Southeast Asian nation in the face of Chinese actions. Marcos acknowledged the international community’s willingness to assist the Philippines in safeguarding its sovereignty and maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific region. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed America’s steadfast support during a recent call with his Filipino counterpart, Gilberto Teodoro.

Last Saturday’s incident follows similar confrontations earlier in the month, underscoring the persistent tensions in the South China Sea.

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