China threat vs. ‘trespassers’ an escalation of WPS tensions –Marcos

By Darryl John Esguerra

May 29, 2024, 4:57 pm

<p>President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. <em>(File Photo)</em></p>

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (File Photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. once again sounded the alarm over China’s new policy to detain alleged “trespassers” in the South China Sea, including those overlapping in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying that the move was “an escalation” of tensions in the disputed area.

In a press briefing with members of the media on the sidelines of his state visit to Brunei on Wednesday, Marcos described China’s threat as a worrisome development.

“The new policy of threatening to detain our own citizens, that is different. That is an escalation of the situation. So, yes, it is now very worrisome,” Marcos said.

The President made the remarks when asked to react on China’s four-month fishing ban in the South China Sea, including parts of the WPS.

He said China’s self-imposed fishing ban is “just an extension of their claim."

In a media interview last May 19, Marcos called China's policy against perceived "trespassers" as "unacceptable," and vowed that the Philippines will take "whatever measures" to protect Filipinos.

China reportedly empowered its own Coast Guard to detain for up to 60 days without trial foreign trespassers who will cross what it claims are its borders.

This followed the successful conduct of the Atin To Coalition civilian convoy to Scarborough Shoal.

The WPS is part of the vast South China Sea, which Beijing claims entirely as its own.

However, in 2016, the Philippines won a landmark international arbitration case against China, invalidating its ambitious claim over South China Sea— a ruling that Beijing vehemently disregarded.

Ensuring peace

Despite China’s continued aggression in the WPS that includes the use of water cannons, military-grade laser and barriers, the Philippines, Marcos said, is exhausting all remedies to peacefully resolve the issue.

He said there are some sort of a middle ground with China to ensure peace and stability in the area.

“Yes, of course, there are,” Marcos said when asked if there are meetings or backchannel efforts to resolve WPS issues.

“I’ve said it many times. You should try everything. You don’t know what effort is going to be successful. So, as any point of contact that I can establish, I will use it. And at every level, at the leaders' level, at the ministerial, sub-ministerial, private.”

“As long as it gives us, brings us progress in terms of resolving these [issues]. And you know, first of all, number one, to stop the aggressive actions such as water-cannoning and lasers and barrier putting etcetera. And secondly, allowing our fishermen to fish. Let’s start with that,” he said. (PNA)