MANILA (Reuters) -Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Saturday that the country “will not lose an inch” of territory, his remarks coming on the heels of continuing maritime tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
The Southeast Asian nation this week protested what it called as Beijing’s “aggressive activities” that have stoked a long-running territorial dispute over the South China Sea.
“The country has seen heightened geopolitical tensions that do not conform to our ideals of peace and threaten the security and stability of the country, of the region and of the world,” Marcos said in a speech at a military alumni homecoming event.
“This country will not lose an inch of its territory. We will continue to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty in accordance with our constitution and with international law. We will work with our neighbours to secure the safety and security of our peoples.”
Beijing’s embassy in Manila did not respond to a request for comment. China’s foreign ministry had said its coastguard conducted actions according to law.
On Tuesday, Marcos summoned China’s envoy to express his “serious concern” over Beijing’s “increasing frequency and intensity of actions” against the Philippine Coast Guard and Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea.
The Philippines’ foreign ministry on Tuesday also filed a diplomatic protest after Manila’s coastguard reported its Chinese counterpart had directed a “military-grade laser” at one of its ships supporting a resupply mission to troops, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.
However, Marcos sees the laser pointing incident as insufficient to invoke a mutual defence treaty with United States, a longstanding ally.
“If we activated that, what we are doing is escalating, intensifying the tensions in the area and I think that would be counterproductive,” Marcos told reporters.
Marcos said he discussed with China’s ambassador to Manila what he saw was intensifying actions of Chinese marine militia, coast guard and navy, including the laser pointing incident.
China’s recent actions came just a month after Marcos’ state visit to Beijing, where the two countries pledged to handle disputes peacefully and boost cooperation.
China claims large swathes of the strategic waterway, where about $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually, which was invalidated by an international tribunal in The Hague in 2016.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Michael Perry)
President Ferdinand Marcos, the leader of the Philippines, has announced that the Philippines will not “lose an inch” of its territory. He has made this statement in the context of an ongoing dispute over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea between the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and China.
The dispute centres around the Spratly Islands, which are a group of coral reefs and atolls that are located in the northern part of the South China Sea. China has recently made claims to the territory and has been carrying out construction works on various islands to support its claims.
President Marcos has made it clear that the Philippines will not make any concessions on its right to the islands and that it will not be ceding any of its territory. He has claimed that any attempts to take away the islands from the Philippines will be met with fierce resistance. This resistance could come in many forms, including legal action, economic retaliation and military defence.
He has been supported in his stance by the Foreign Minister, Perfecto Yasay, who has stressed the importance of the nation’s claim to the islands. He has noted that the Philippine government has worked to peacefully resolve the dispute, but has refused to back away from its claims.
President Marcos’ statements are an indication of the strength of the nation’s claims over the Spratly Islands. His position is seen as clear by many Filipinos and foreign observers, who believe that the Philippines has a valid claim over the disputed territory. The other nations involved in the dispute are expected to continue to press their own claims, but the strong stance taken by President Marcos is likely to ensure that the Philippines will not relinquish its claim to the islands.