Philippines’s Marcos promises action after China’s ‘dangerous attacks’

President says country will respond to South China Sea confrontations with proportionate measures after Filipino soldiers injured.

Ferdinand Marcos
Marcos's remarks came as China blamed Philippine actions for recent rising tensions [File: Evelyn Hockstein/AP Photo]

President Ferdinand Marcos has said the Philippines will take countermeasures against China after the latest confrontation between the two countries in the disputed South China Sea injured Filipino soldiers and damaged vessels.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the Philippines would respond with a “countermeasure package that is proportionate, deliberate, and reasonable in the face of the open, unabating, and illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks by agents of the China Coast Guard and the Chinese Maritime Militia”.

He added: “Filipinos do not yield.”

Marcos’s remarks came as China blamed Philippine actions for recent tensions in the contested waterway, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

The two countries have reported several confrontations between their vessels near disputed reefs in recent months.

Chinese envoy summoned

The latest incident near Second Thomas Shoal occurred on Saturday during a regular Philippine mission to resupply Filipino troops garrisoned on the Sierra Madre, a navy ship that was grounded there in 1999.

The Philippines said the Chinese coastguard blocked its supply vessel and damaged it with water cannon, injuring three soldiers. It summoned a Chinese envoy in response.

China’s coastguard has defended its actions, describing them as “lawful regulation, interception and expulsion” of a foreign vessel that “tried to forcefully intrude” into “Chinese waters”.

Second Thomas Shoal, lies about 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) from China’s southern Hainan island.

China has urged Manila to “pull back from the brink” and stop “provoking trouble at sea”.

In a statement on Thursday titled China Will Not Allow the Philippines to Act Wilfully, Beijing’s Ministry of National Defence blamed “the provocations by the Philippine side” for the increased tensions.

“Relying on the backing of external forces … the Philippine side has frequently infringed on rights and provoked and created trouble at sea, as well as spreading false information to mislead the international community’s perception of the issue, which is, so to speak, going further and further down a dangerous road,” the statement added.

In recent years, Beijing has been building artificial islands and military outposts in contested parts of the sea, and deployed its coast guard, maritime militia and fishing fleets to back up claims that were rejected as without merit in a 2016 international court ruling.

Manila brought that case after China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012 after a months-long standoff.

As well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea around their coasts.

US support

The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, has backed Manila over the issue.

Marcos said the international community had “offered to help us on what the Philippines requires to protect and secure our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction while ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific”.

“I have given them our requirements and we have been assured that they will be addressed,” he said without providing details.

His statement also came after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin repeated the “ironclad” US commitment to its longtime ally in a call with his Filipino counterpart, Gilberto Teodoro, on Wednesday.

Marcos is due to visit Washington, DC next month – his fourth visit in two years.

Source: News Agencies