Marcos vows to defend the Philippines’ sovereignty amid China’s ‘aggression and provocations’

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A Chinese Coast Guard ship sails near a Philippine vessel (R) that was part of a convoy of civilian boats in the disputed South China Sea on December 10, 2023. A convoy of civilian boats planning to deliver provisions to Filipino fishermen and troops in the disputed South China Sea aborted the trip on December 10 after “constant shadowing” by Chinese vessels, the organiser said.

Ted Aljibe | Afp | Getty Images

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has vowed to step up the country’s defense of its maritime zones in the South China Sea after Filipino and Chinese vessels collided over the weekend.

“We remain undeterred,” Marcos said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“The aggression and provocations perpetrated by the China Coast Guard and their Chinese Maritime Militia against our vessels and personnel over the weekend have only further steeled our determination to defend and protect our nation’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.”

CNBC has reached out to China’s foreign ministry for comment.

On Sunday, the Philippines accused China of causing “severe damage” to one of its vessels and ramming into another.

China’s Coast Guard “directly targeted” Filipino vessels, “disabling the vessel and seriously endangering the lives of its crew,” according to a statement by the Philippines Maritime Task Force, shared by Jay Tarriela, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea.

The Filipino vessels were part of a convoy on a resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal, where Filipino soldiers live on a grounded warship in the submerged reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The incident comes as the Philippines stepped up its resistance this year against China’s aggressive claims and projection of power over almost the entire waterway that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Other Southeast Asian countries like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam also claim parts of the South China Sea. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled that China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.

A spokesperson for the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said at a press conference on Monday in Manila that the Chinese ambassador has been summoned. The Philippines also lodged diplomatic protests with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Teresita Daza said.

A China Coast Guard spokesperson said Sunday the Philippines was “entirely” responsible for the “deliberate collision” and ignored China’s repeated dissuasion and warnings by “insisting” on sending four vessels to deliver supplies to the warship that Beijing said was illegally “sitting on the beach.”

The U.S. State Department threw its weight behind the Philippines, accusing Chinese ships of “reckless maneuvers, including forcing a collision.”

According to the U.S. State Department, a separate incident at the Scarborough Reef on Saturday used acoustic devices, incapacitating the Filipino crew members, and drove away Philippine fishing vessels.

“As reflected in an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, the PRC has no lawful maritime claims to the waters around Second Thomas Shoal, and Filipinos are entitled to traditional fishing rights around Scarborough Reef,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.