By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is seeking a “paradigm shift” in addressing China’s recent aggression and harassment in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said Tuesday.

This, as Marcos noticed “very little progress” on the “traditional methods of diplomacy” to settle the Philippines’ issues with China in the WPS, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement.

“President Marcos emphasized that it is about time for the Philippine government to come up with a new way on how to deal with China as it appeared that the current efforts are showing very little progress,” Garafil said.

In an interview with Japanese media in Tokyo on Saturday, Marcos said the current diplomatic efforts with China are heading “in a poor direction.”

Marcos noted that the Philippines has taken three legal steps, which include filing a diplomatic protest to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summoning Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, and making a “demarche to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials” to call out the China Coast Guard (CCG).

He, however, lamented that the Philippines’ current efforts to address the WPS issues seem to be not working.

He said the situation in the WPS will not improve if the Philippines continues to deal with China the same way it is dealing with the current situation in the contested waters.

“We have to do something that we have not done before. We have to come up with a new concept, a new principle, a new idea so that we move, as I say, we move the needle the other way,” Marcos said.

“It’s going up, let’s move the needle back, so that paradigm shift is something that we have to formulate,” he added.

The Chinese naval assets water cannoned the vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) during its recent resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Asked about the specific paradigm shift the Philippine government is thinking, Marcos said there are a lot of ideas, adding that the government would continue talking to its partners to come up with a joint position stating their responsibilities as far as the WPS is concerned.

“We have to bring all of those ideas together and to change the direction that these incidents have taken us. We have to stop going that way. We’ve gone down the wrong road. We have to disengage and find ourselves a more peaceful road to go down,” Marcos said.

“We have, as I have said, the consensus that we must continue to promote peace, but we have to decide amongst ourselves what part each of us plays and what we can play, what we are willing to play.”

Marcos added that the Philippines might be compelled to hold talks not just with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region but with “the rest of the world” to deescalate the tension in the WPS.

“We do not want to go the point where there are incidents that might cause an actual violent conflict. Maybe from a mistake or a misunderstanding and these things happen all the time,” he said.

Marcos, however, clarified in another media interview in Tokyo on Monday that he would prefer a “less of confrontational method” to settle the issues with China.

He said the Philippines needs to be “very circumspect” in its actions to avoid unintended results.

“We have to be very careful that we do not overreact, that we do not make mistakes that might be misinterpreted by anyone,” Marcos said. “If we heightened the tensions, it won’t lead us to a good result. So, we are very circumspect in the actions that we will take.”

Holiday cheers for WPS troops

Meanwhile, various groups united in a collective effort to provide Christmas packages to government troops, fisherfolk and local communities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“In a display of unity and solidarity, these organizations, while working independently, have come together in heart and spirit to extend their support to those serving for the ultimate protection of our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, all the fisherfolk, and the community in this farthest part of our country’s territory,” the Western Command (Wescom) said in a Facebook post late Monday.

From Dec. 11 to 18, organizations such as ATIN ITO Coalition, Rise Against Hunger, Las Piñas Horton Eagles Club, and the National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea partnered to deliver essential supplies and spread holiday cheers in the country’s western borders.

The Christmas packages contained “Noche Buena” food items, rice, soya, and meals.

Meanwhile, Wescom said around half ton of food were delivered to all nine Philippine-held features in the WPS last week.

It added that the delivery of these food packs was coordinated with the maritime and sovereignty patrol of government forces deployed at the Wescom operational area.

These assets included the missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), offshore patrol vessel BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15), and the Air Force’s C-295 medium patrol and transport aircraft.

Wescom said these ships and aircraft played a crucial role in facilitating the transport of these food packs while ensuring the successful patrols in the area. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)