Marcos Stands Firm on Defending Philippine Territory

Firm stance President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. talks during the Philippine Business Forum at the Asean-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday, March 4, 2024.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his unwavering commitment to defending the Philippines’ territory in the South China Sea against what he referred to as Chinese aggression. Speaking at the Lowy Institute international policy think tank in Melbourne, Australia, Marcos emphasized that the Philippines had no choice but to protect its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the face of provocative and illegal actions by China.

Despite the clarity provided by international law, China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, causing tensions with neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei, who also assert their claims to islands, reefs, and undersea resources in the region. Marcos made it clear that standing up to China in the South China Sea was not a mere policy choice but a fundamental duty of a leader to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Philippines.

During his speech, Marcos warned that if the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea were questioned or ignored, he would be compelled to “push back ties” with China. While acknowledging the centuries of friendship and kinship between the Filipino and Chinese people, Marcos stressed that the interests of the Philippines cannot be trampled upon. He emphasized the need for a comprehensive strategic cooperation with China based on mutual respect and benefit, but also the importance of respectfully disagreeing on areas of disagreement and defending the country’s principles.

Marcos reiterated that his administration takes a strong stance on the issue because it cannot allow a unilateral decision by a foreign entity to amend or change the definition of the Philippines’ territory. Defending against threats is not a matter of policy choice but a duty that he assumed upon taking office, and one that he believes every Filipino shares.

The President highlighted the detrimental impact of China’s pattern of aggression on the vision of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity. He called for regional neighbors to stand together more strongly in upholding the rule of law in the South China Sea, where China has constructed garrisons on artificial islands to fortify its claims.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo also emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law in the South China Sea and urged regional cooperation in preserving the primacy of international law. He referred to the Philippines’ legal victory over China in a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. Despite China’s refusal to accept the ruling, Manalo emphasized the shared stewardship of the seas and oceans in the region, which necessitates unity in ensuring equitable and sustainable outcomes for all.

In conclusion, President Marcos Jr. reaffirmed the Philippines’ unwavering commitment to defending its territory in the South China Sea. He emphasized that the country had no choice but to protect its sovereignty and sovereign rights against Chinese aggression. Marcos called for a comprehensive strategic cooperation with China based on mutual respect and benefit, while also asserting the importance of defending the Philippines’ principles. The President’s strong stance reflects the determination of the Filipino people to safeguard their territorial integrity and contribute to the vision of a peaceful and prosperous South China Sea.

Source: The Manila Times

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