One of the more compelling reasons why President Bongbong Marcos went to the United States is to get assurances from American officials particularly the Joseph Biden Administration that we have their full backing in case the situation in the South China Sea deteriorates into hostilities.
Amid the maritime tension, Filipinos are somewhat more mesmerized than reassured when they hear their President say this:
"I have said it before and I will say it again, the Philippines will not give a single square inch of our territory [to] any foreign power. The law is clear as defined by the UNCLOS and the final and binding 2016 award on the South China Sea arbitration," he said.
These words which summarized the President’s policy directions on the South China Sea issue during his inaugural were again heard from Bongbong during the recent roundtable meeting at the Daniel L. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.
Marcos might be painting himself in a corner with this statement, for right in the same forum, the Chief Executive disclosed that China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have come closer and closer to the Philippine coastline—actually just 60 nautical miles from the country’s shore.
What will the President do about it?
It was not known if this info was revealed to President Marcos by US Admiral John Aquilino, head of the Indo-Pacific Command, who earlier had shown him a model of a military base being constructed in the WPS by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
If true—and we see no reason to doubt the information relayed by the chief of the US Indo-Pacific Command—then the Chinese security forces are indeed way deep into Philippine territory; they are encroaching on our Exclusive Economic Zone, using their dubious 10-dash-line claim in almost the whole of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait and citing historical events to back their claim.
Soon, Filipinos will start asking Bongbong flesh out his oft-repeated mantra that he will not countenance the giving of even a square inch of Philippine territory to a foreign power.
In the face of China’s outright stealing of part of PH territory, will Marcos’ Department of Foreign Affairs just send another note verbale to the Chinese Embassy in protest? These protest letters are regularly dismissed by the embassy.
Or will Marcos follow the suggestion of Sen. Francis Tolentino to recall the Philippine ambassador to Beijing, even if temporarily, to show his displeasure on what China is doing in the West Philippine Sea? Whatever Bongbong Marcos does in this regard is worth monitoring because it will ultimately affect all of us.
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