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Not yet time to trigger US treaty pact amid China’s latest aggression – Marcos

By: Dona Pazzibungan, Jane Baustista - | March 07,2024 - 09:07 AM

President Marcos pictured signing

MESSAGE SENT President Marcos, pictured signing a guest book in Melbourne, on Wednesday, views China’s hostile acts “in the most serious way.” —PPA POOL

MELBOURNE—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed concern over China Coast Guard (CCG) ships’ “dangerous maneuvers” against Philippine vessels in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, but he does not believe it warrants invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States at this time.

The President said this in a video statement on Wednesday, following the recent incidents, such as a water cannon attack on a Philippine supply boat and a minor collision with a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship.

The President’s message was released by the Presidential Communications Office before his return flight to Manila on Wednesday night after attending a special summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Australia here.

“However, we continue to view with great alarm these continuing dangerous maneuvers and dangerous actions that are being done against our seamen, our Coast Guard,” Mr. Marcos said.

“And this time, they damaged the cargo ship and caused some injury to some of our seamen and I think that we cannot view this in any way but in the most serious way,” the President added.

“Once again, we will make our objections known and hope that we can continue to communicate to find a way so that such actions are no longer seen in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Last year, Mr. Marcos made a similar statement about time not being ripe for asserting Manila’s 1951 treaty with Washington, in response to the Feb. 6, 2023, incident involving the CCG’s use of military-grade laser on the PCG’s BRP Malapascua, temporarily blinding some crew members.

The United States is the Philippines’ lone treaty ally.

The mutual defense pact states that the two countries will “act to meet the common dangers” in the event of an armed attack in the Pacific, including those “on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the South China Sea.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to the treaty as it condemned China’s “repeated obstruction” of the Philippines’ exercise of its freedom of navigation in the high seas.

“The United States stands with our ally the Philippines following the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) provocative actions against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea on March 5,” said US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller.

He said the attacks by the CCG vessels exhibited “disregard” for the safety and livelihoods of Filipinos and international law.

“As provided under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines, and the United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the ruling and desist from its dangerous and destabilizing conduct,” Miller said.

Triggering the pact

Asked about actions that would trigger the pact, Miller said: “I’m not going to speculate or get ahead of any discussions—in this regard.”

But he confirmed that the United States was “in discussions with the Philippines about this matter.”

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has lodged 10 diplomatic protests against China this year, raising the total to 142 under the Marcos administration, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Teresita Daza told a press briefing on Wednesday.

In his video statement, where he also answered questions from Philippine journalists, the President described the recent sighting of Chinese vessels in Philippine Rise (formerly called Benham Rise) in the country’s eastern seaboard as a “clear intrusion” into Philippine territory.

He said the Chinese vessels sighted in the area were suspected to be more than ordinary research vessels. “Once again, this is a clear intrusion into our Philippine maritime territory and it is, as usual, of great concern,” said Mr. Marcos

No simple rivalry

During the summit proper on Wednesday, he urged leaders of Asean, Australia and other countries to remain committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes through the rule of international law.

He said a rules-based international order was important to prevent any repeat of conflict or war.

“Let me be clear: We encourage our Asean neighbors to frame conflicts not simply as rivalry between major powers, but as direct challenges to the sovereignty of independent states whose well-being, both politically and economically, are interdependent and intertwined,” Mr. Marcos said.

READ MORE: PH and China coast guard ships collide in West Philippine Sea

China water cannon attack hurts 4 PH Navy crew


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TAGS: China, Chinese Coast Guard, Philippine Coast Guard

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