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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

‘Death in WPS very close to act of war’

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Marcos: PH, treaty allies to respond accordingly

President Marcos on Friday warned the death of any Filipino in the West Philippine Sea due to illegal and coercive acts of other states would be “very, very close” to an act of war.

Mr. Marcos, after delivering his keynote address during the 2024 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, was asked how the Philippines would respond if a Chinese water cannon attack resulted in a loss of life.

“If a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is, I think, very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly,” he replied.

“And our treaty partners, I believe, also hold the same standards (that) when joint actions will be undertaken in support of such incidents in the Philippines,” he added.

He said the death of any Filipino would be the point where “we would have crossed the red line.”

“We already suffered injuries, but thank God we have not yet gotten to the point where any of our participants, civilians or otherwise have been killed,” he said.

In his keynote address, Mr. Marcos said the vision of having a peaceful and stable South China Sea remains a ”distant reality” as he slammed “illegal and deceptive” actions in the region.

He reiterated his vow to defend the country’s sovereignty and maritime domain.

“The life-giving waters of the West Philippine Sea flow in the blood of every Filipino. We cannot allow anyone to detach it from the totality of the maritime domain that renders our nation whole,” he said.

“As President, I have sworn to this solemn commitment from the very first day that I took office. I do not intend to yield. Filipinos do not yield,” he added.

He denounced aggressive actions in the maritime area that run counter to ASEAN’s vision of a safe and stable South China Sea.

”Illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions continue to violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” he said.

“We have defined our territory and maritime zones in a manner befitting a responsible and law-abiding member of the international community. We have submitted our assertions to rigorous, legal scrutiny by the world’s leading jurors,” he asserted.

President Marcos cited the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award, which affirmed the Philippines’ maritime rights and rejected China’s massive claim in the SCS.

The President also called on the United States and China to manage their rivalry “in a responsible manner.”

“China’s determining influence over the security situation and the economic evolution of this region is permanent. At the same time, the stabilizing presence of America is crucial to regional peace. It’s never a choice. Both countries are important,” Mr. Marcos said.

”The continued stability of this region requires China and the United States to manage that rivalry in a responsible manner.”

Earlier in the day, Armed Forces chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the Philippines and the United States have expressed concern over Beijing’s new policy to arrest trespassers the South China Sea.

”Both our countries are concerned about it,” Brawner said at the sidelines of the defense summit in Singapore.

Days before his back-to-back trip to Brunei and Singapore, Mr. Marcos condemned China’s order to arrest any foreign nationals trespassing in the South China Sea, which includes areas that fall under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

“That kind of action would be completely unacceptable to the Philippines,” he said.

“That is unacceptable, and we will take whatever measures to always protect our citizens,” Mr. Marcos added.

China said the Philippines should not be worried about the new rules “as long there is no illegal behavior.”

Brawner said the government is also monitoring China’s deployment of bigger ships in the West Philippine Sea.

China Coast Guard 5901, the largest coast guard ship in the world known as “The Monster,” earlier conducted an “intrusive patrol” near Scarborough Shoal.

Scarborough Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, is located within the Philippines’ EEZ.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, for his part, discussed the Law of the Sea with an international lawyer at a sideline meeting of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue.

Manalo said he was able to meet Prof. Robert Beckman, at the National University of Singapore.

”Hopeful that our discussion on International Law, including the Law Of The Sea, could pave the way for further collaboration, (especially) among the many centers of expertise in our region,” the country’s top diplomat said.

The meeting came a day after the Department of Justice said the environmental case the Philippine government intends to file against China over the maritime destruction in the West Philippine Sea may be completed “in a few weeks.”

The National Security Council earlier said the evidence includes images of how Chinese activities destroyed the already fragile marine environment in Scarborough Shoal.

Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla first broached the idea of filing a case against China in September 2023 after the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command confirmed there were cases of massive coral harvesting along Rozul (Iroquois) Reef in the WPS.

The Philippines is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the government has since pushed for international rules-based order, especially on regional tensions and conflicts.

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