Marcos hits ‘dangerous’ use of coast guard ships

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos hits �dangerous� use of coast guard ships
This handout photo from the Philippine Coast Guard shows BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702).
Philippine Coast Guard

Marcos Jr urges ASEAN leaders to take action

JAKARTA – With Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea becoming more brazen, President Marcos has called on leaders of East Asia to act on the “dangerous use” of the coast guard and maritime militia vessels by the Chinese.

Marcos issued the call a month after a Chinese coast guard ship blasted a Filipino vessel with water cannon as the latter was delivering provisions to a Philippine military outpost on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal, which is within the country’s territorial waters.

“The Philippines fully supports adherence to international law and the rules-based order. We must oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea. We are concerned over illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea,” President Marcos said at the 18th East Asia Summit here, attended by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

“We are concerned over consistent actions that are in violation of obligations under international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and under the DOC (Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea),” Marcos said.

He relayed the same message during the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit last Wednesday.

“The Philippines remains resolute towards the peaceful resolution of disputes. We continue to support freedom of navigation and overflight, and the rules-based international order in the South China Sea,” he said.

“We must not allow tensions in the South China Sea to further escalate. In this spirit and in accordance with the DOC, we continue to urge all parties to exercise self-restraint and refrain from unilateral and assertive activities that would increase tensions in the region, misunderstandings, and miscalculations in the South China Sea,” he added.

Marcos said the Philippines remains resolved in ensuring peaceful resolution of disputes and continues to support freedom of navigation and overflight and the rules-based international order in the region.

He has also recognized New Delhi’s effort to support the regional bloc in calling for peace and stability in the South China Sea.

“Allow me also to begin by thanking India for supporting ASEAN during the last Non-Aligned Movement Meeting, where India stood in solidarity with ASEAN, especially on our call to factually update paragraphs on the South China Sea in the NAM ministerial outcome document,” Marcos said.

“We both envision a progressive Indo-Pacific that encompasses maritime cooperation to ensure sustainable use of maritime resources – particularly in tackling illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, promoting the blue economy, and mitigating maritime pollution, among others,” he added.

Vietnam’s wish

Vietnam has expressed hope for Philippines’ participation in a multilateral mechanism for preventing hostilities or untoward incidents in the South China Sea.

“We also look forward to working closely with the Philippines in constant coordination,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said yesterday, citing the memorandum of agreement on the prevention and management of incidents in the South China Sea during his bilateral meeting with President Marcos on the sidelines of the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here.

The Vietnamese leader also pushed for an intensified maritime cooperation between Manila and Hanoi, two of the six claimants in the South China Sea.

Other parties in the longstanding maritime row are Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and China, with the latter claiming almost the entire resource-rich waters. An arbitral court in The Hague voided China’s expansive maritime claim in 2016 but the Chinese government does not recognize the ruling.

At the 18th East Asia Summit, the President highlighted the need to create conditions for diplomatic solutions to problems of nuclear threats stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s ballistic missile test. He said the “buildup of rising powers in global weapon stockpiles,” poses “undue dangers to global peace and security.”

“We call on DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions towards the realization of lasting peace and stability in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” he said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

With regard to the war in Ukraine, Marcos said the Philippines has consistently reaffirmed its support for the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, especially on sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

“The Philippines firmly believes that it is now necessary to create conditions for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine. We call on all countries to play a constructive role in contributing to this endeavor, particularly our partners,” he said during the forum, which was also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Indonesian President and ASEAN chairman Joko Widodo has expressed hope that the summit would be used by leaders to “strengthen cooperation and not sharpen rivalries.”

US reassurance

President Marcos has also received a reassurance from the US of its “ironclad” commitment to its alliance with the Philippines, during a meeting with Harris. The meeting happened on the sidelines of the US-ASEAN summit.

“The Vice President reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad alliance commitment to the Philippines, and highlighted the role the US-Philippines alliance plays in ensuring a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” the White House said in a statement.

Harris and Marcos  also had an informal meeting with Japan’s Kishida at a gala dinner Wednesday, where they discussed the South China Sea row.

“Prime Minister Kishida exchanged views with President Marcos and Vice President Harris on the current situation surrounding the South China Sea, and concurred with them to jointly tackle unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force,” the Japanese foreign ministry said.

In a related development, Marcos thanked Australia for supporting the Philippines’ stance on the South China Sea row and for providing ASEAN with assistance in education, defense, health and digital transformation.

“I welcome Australia’s active engagement in maritime-related issues and concerns in the region,” the Chief Executive said during the third ASEAN-Australia Summit also yesterday.

“And we, the Philippines, thank Australia for expressing concern on the latest actions directed against the Philippines in the South China Sea. We join Australia on the call for peace, stability, and respect for the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention,” he added.

Maritime security

In a statement on the meeting between Harris and Marcos, the White House said “the two leaders discussed the maritime security environment in the South China Sea, and reviewed opportunities to enhance bilateral maritime cooperation, including alongside likeminded partners.”

Marcos and Harris also welcomed the designation of four additional sites for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a 2014 deal that grants the US military access to Philippine bases for training and humanitarian as well as disaster relief activities. According to the White House, the EDCA would drive American investment to local communities across the Philippines and improve the two countries’ shared ability to rapidly deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

The White House said Marcos and Harris also welcomed the strength of the bilateral relationship between their countries and talked about opportunities to deepen commercial and economic cooperation and their shared commitment to upholding the rules-based international order.

Last Wednesday’s engagement was meant to build on the meetings of US President Joe Biden and Harris with Marcos in Washington last May and on the US vice president’s visit to the Philippines last November.

During their summit, ASEAN leaders and Harris vowed to enhance maritime cooperation through mechanisms led by the regional bloc as well as uphold freedom of navigation and overflight.

Harris and the ASEAN leaders also discussed the importance of upholding international law in the South China Sea as well as strengthening ties on economics and trade, climate and energy, health, maritime issues, education and cultural exchange.

In Manila, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. told lawmakers the Philippines has to take a “defensive posture” in response to China’s expansionist moves.

“China impliedly admitted that they are expanding by using the word contain,” Teodoro at yesterday’s hearing of the House appropriations committee of Rep. Zaldy Co on the proposed P232.2-billion budget of the Department of National Defense for next year.

“First, they had the nine-dash line and which now became the 10-dash line. That alone means they wanted to extend their territory not just to the entire South China Sea but even beyond,” Teodoro said. “That is why we have to create a deterrent posture.”– Pia Lee Brago

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