President Marcos Seeks Australia’s Help to Resolve South China Sea Disputes

MEDIA CONFERENCE. Press Briefer Daphne Oseña-Paez (left) presides over the Malacañang Palace briefing in Manila on Tuesday (Feb. 27, 2024) with Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu (center) and spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza. They said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s official trips, like his engagements in Australia on Feb. 28 and 29 and March 4 to 6, cement strategic partnerships and shared interests, especially in the economic and peace aspects. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)
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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to seek the support of Australia in resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippines recently reported the presence of Chinese warships and a helicopter near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal). The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stated that the President will visit Canberra on February 28 and then Melbourne on March 4 for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia. This move comes at a time when the rules-based international order is facing significant challenges.

Confirming the presence of Chinese warships and a helicopter near Bajo de Masinloc, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) emphasized the importance of territorial sovereignty within the 12 nautical miles of the area. Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, explained that while the warships maintained a distance of more than 20 nautical miles from the shoal, the Philippines holds territorial sovereignty within the 12 nautical miles.

During the same period, a Chinese Navy helicopter was observed flying over the waters of Bajo de Masinloc. The BFAR vessel and other Filipino fishing vessels attempted to determine the origin of the helicopter, initially suspecting it to have come from a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship. Commodore Tarriela noted that the helicopter was gray with Chinese markings indicating it belonged to the Chinese Navy. This marked the first sighting of this type of aircraft in the area.

Earlier this month, the PCG reported that China had reinstalled a floating barrier near Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea, which falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Two CCG vessels were positioned at the entrance to the lagoon, and speedboats were deployed to guard the floating barriers. The PCG, acting on the President’s orders, had previously removed a 300-meter barrier installed by China in September 2023 and vowed to take necessary action to remove any further barriers.

The rotational deployment of the PCG and BFAR in Bajo de Masinloc aims to secure Filipino fishermen in the area and contribute to the government’s vision of food security. National Security Adviser Eduardo Año emphasized the importance of this move in ensuring the well-being of Filipino fishermen and supporting the country’s food security goals.

President Marcos Jr.’s participation in the ASEAN-Australia summit holds significant importance. Australia is the oldest dialogue partner of ASEAN and plays an active and dynamic role in various areas, including political security, economics, and socio-cultural aspects. Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu of the Department of Foreign Affairs highlighted that the summit provides an opportunity for the Philippines to present its core position on regional and international issues and set the tone for future dialogue partner summits.

President Marcos Jr.’s efforts to seek Australian support in resolving the South China Sea dispute demonstrate the Philippines’ commitment to upholding its territorial sovereignty and promoting peace and stability in the region. By engaging with international partners and participating in important summits, the Philippines aims to address geopolitical challenges and foster dialogue towards a rules-based international order.

Source: The Manila Times

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