After over 100 vessels from Asia’s largest economy were detected in the disputed waters, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s government declared on Friday that it will continue to resist Beijing’s presence in the Philippine sector of the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is a strategically important and resource-rich waterway that China claims almost entirely, while other nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.
After an international tribunal in The Hague invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to the region in 2016, the Philippines filed hundreds of diplomatic protests against Chinese operations in the South China Sea.
“We will continue to file diplomatic protests,” says the statement. “It doesn’t matter if we file 10,000 of them because if we don’t, it indicates we’re acquiescing to the situation on the ground,” Clarita Carlos, Marcos’ national security adviser, said in a press conference.
On June 30, Marcos, who won a resounding victory in last month’s presidential election, will succeed outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s leader.
Carlos’ remarks came after the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy in Manila over “the lingering unauthorized presence of Chinese fishing and maritime vessels,” which it described as “not only illegal, but also a source of instability in the region” in a statement.
Philippine police saw “nearly 100 Chinese vessels illegally operating” in a stretch of the country’s exclusive economic zone surrounding the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef in April, according to the foreign office, a year after a similar event sparked a diplomatic row.
“The Philippines urges on China to comply with its international commitments, cease and desist from illegal and irresponsible behavior, avoid further increasing tensions at sea, and withdraw all of its warships from Philippine maritime zones immediately,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
While Marcos’ predecessor forged closer ties with China by overturning the Hague tribunal’s decision in exchange for promises of trade and investment, the president-elect, who campaigned on a promise to support Duterte’s key policies, said last month that he would uphold the international ruling against Beijing.
“We have a significant judgement in our favor, and we will continue to assert our territorial rights as a result of it.” It isn’t a claim at all. He told the local press, “It is already our territorial right.”
“We’re discussing China.”
“We speak to China with a firm voice on a regular basis,” he stated, but added, “We cannot go to war with them.” That is the absolute last thing we require right now.”