Source : Asian News International (ANI)
|Philippines President Bongbong Ferdinand Marcos Jr (Left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (Right)|
Manila [Philippines]: Tensions between Manila and Beijing are rising ahead of the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s visit to China scheduled from January 3 to 6, 2023, reported The Star.
Philippines officials are condemning China over debris and boats massing in the South China Sea. Footage from local TV station GMA-7 aired on Wednesday showed several Chinese vessels still lingering around Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal.
Government officials in the Philippines have doubled down in criticizing Beijing’s latest incursions in the South China Sea, weeks after an encounter between the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard.
The criticism comes less than a month before President Marcos’s state visit to China. Meanwhile, he has been striking a delicate balancing act between China and the United States amid an intensifying battle between the two superpowers for influence in South-East Asia, reported The Star.
Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr, officer-in-charge of the Philippines’ Department of National Defence (DND), said on Wednesday (Dec 14) it was “unacceptable” for Chinese militia boats to be massing around Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal.
Notably, these are areas located within the disputed Spratlys archipelago in the eastern part of the South China Sea and are already within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Manila officially calls this area the West Philippine Sea.
In 2016, the Philippines won an arbitration case before an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea and ruled that Manila has sovereign rights over the waters within its EEZ.
However, Beijing refuses to recognize this outcome, reported The Star.
Faustino reiterated Marcos’ earlier order for the DND “not to give up a single square of Philippine territory. Our lines remain open to dialogue. However, we maintain that activities which violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and undermine the peace and stability of the region, are unacceptable.”
Hours after Faustino’s statement, Philippine senators passed a resolution expressing the chamber’s “disgust” at China over a November 20 sea encounter concerning rocket debris that the Philippine Navy found floating off the coast of Thitu Island, which is also part of the Spratlys archipelago, reported The Star.
The incident occurred in the same week that US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines and reiterated support for its ally in the event of an armed attack in the South China Sea.
Senator Francis Tolentino in a speech played a video showing a Philippine Navy rubber boat towing rocket debris back to shore and Chinese Coast Guard members on a bigger inflatable boat cutting the towing line, reported The Star.
Calling out in broken English, a Philippine Navy officer can be heard off-camera trying to stop their Chinese counterparts, who do not respond and proceed to collect the rocket debris.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had insisted the Philippine side had returned the object to China “after friendly consultation,” but Tolentino said the video showed otherwise. The Philippines have already sent a diplomatic note to China to clarify the incident, reported The Star.
“These actions… are slowly but surely eroding Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and harming the country’s strategic position,” said Tolentino. (ANI)