By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

A China Coast Guard vessel in Ayungin Shoal in Philippine territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea. (File photo)

MANILA – The Philippines will lodge a protest against China’s “dangerous” actions in the West Philippine Sea, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Wednesday.

This, as he expressed “great alarm” over China’s recent provocations in the WPS.

“We continue to view with great alarm these continuing dangerous maneuvers and dangerous actions that are being done against our seamen, our Coast Guard. And this time, they damaged the cargo ship and caused some injury to some of our seamen,” Marcos said, responding to media queries given to him while in Melbourne, Australia.

“Once again, we will make our objections known and hope that we can continue to communicate to find a way so that such actions are no longer seen in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Marcos’ statement came, following the dangerous maneuvers and blocking by China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels targeting Philippine vessels engaged in a resupply and rotation mission to the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.

The President views China’s provocative acts in the Philippine waters “in the most serious way.”

However, he admitted that China’s recent actions could not prompt him to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.

The Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) on Tuesday collided with CCG vessel 21555 due to the latter’s “dangerous maneuvers and blocking,” causing minor structural damage to the Filipino ship.

Another CCG vessel also attacked Unaizah May 4, one of the two resupply boats chartered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with water cannons that destroyed its windshield and injured four of its crew.

Marcos also reacted to the reported presence of Chinese research vessels in the Philippine Rise (formerly known as Benham Rise), saying it is a clear intrusion into the Philippine maritime territory and it is “of great concern.”

“However, there is a suspicion that they are not only research vessels so, again, this is a bit of an escalation of the tension that is present in the West Philippines Sea,” he said.

International law

During his intervention at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Special Summit Leaders’ Retreat in Melbourne, Marcos maintained that the Philippine government “will not yield an inch of [the Philippines’] sovereignty,” adding that it will continue to defend the country’s rights based on international law.

Marcos also called on the ASEAN and other nations to show toughness while remaining committed to international law amid China’s aggressive acts in the South China Sea that infringe on the sovereign rights of other nations in the region.

“It, therefore, behooves the Philippines, ASEAN, and Australia, and all like-minded states to exercise the boldness and sense of responsibility to remain committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to maintain respect for the rules-based international order and multilateralism, especially in the face of deliberate efforts by others to denigrate, deny and even violate international law,” he added.

Marcos said it remains the responsibility of each state to promote and protect the rule of international law “as much as any other state facing wanton military might.”

He stressed that “peace is both a global public good and one of humanity’s highest values that no one state should put at risk, for whatever gain or motive.”

The President also thanked Australia and other nations for promoting a rules-based international order grounded on international law.

“It is the Philippines’ hope that ASEAN continues to collectively and constructively address challenges together,” he said.

“Let me be clear: We encourage our ASEAN neighbors to frame conflicts not simply as rivalry between major powers, but as direct challenges to the sovereignty of independent states whose well-being, both politically and economically, are interdependent and intertwined,” Marcos added.

Rules-based order

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Wednesday hailed the President for focusing the spotlight on the observance of rules-based order and peaceful resolution of disputes during the special summit.

“During the summit, President Marcos reaffirmed the strategic alliance between the Philippines and Australia, emphasizing the shared values and mutual interests that bind our nations together. This reaffirmation underscores the importance of fostering robust partnerships in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez likewise noted that during the two-day state visit of President Marcos to Australia, three key agreements between the two countries were signed, including one on enhanced interoperability in the maritime domain and maritime environment.

“This agreement holds paramount importance, particularly in the face of escalating provocative actions by China in the South China Sea. By solidifying this pact, President Marcos has underscored our nation’s unwavering commitment to upholding maritime security and safeguarding the interests of all nations in the region,” Romualdez said.

“President Marcos can count on the unwavering commitment of the House of Representatives in support of his initiatives to preserve peace and stability in the region and his courageous stance in defense of our country’s territory and sovereignty,” he added. (with a report from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)