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Monday April 15, 2024

Philippines ups stakes in China row, vows countermeasures to coastguard ‘attacks’

Marcos did not specify what the countermeasures would entail

By REUTERS
March 29, 2024
Chinese coastguard ship blocks a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship as it neared the Chinese-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. — AFP/File
Chinese coastguard ship blocks a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship as it neared the Chinese-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. — AFP/File 

MANILA/BEIJING: The Philippines will implement countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks” by China’s coastguard, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday, upping the stakes in an escalating row in the South China Sea.

The Philippines is furious over what it calls repeated hostilities by Chinese vessels around disputed features inside Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The United States has weighed in with moral support for its former colony and military ally.

Marcos did not specify what the countermeasures would entail, but said they would come in succeeding weeks and be proportionate, deliberate and reasonable in response to what he called open and unabating attacks.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos said on Facebook.

The deterioration in relations with China comes as Marcos seeks to deepen defence ties with the United States, increasing US access to Philippine military bases and expanding joint exercises to include sea and air patrols over the South China Sea, frustrating Beijing.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian on Thursday said the Philippines was to blame for the breakdown and was counting on support from external forces while peddling misinformation and infringing on China’s sovereignty.

“It is straying further down a dangerous path. The Chinese side will not allow the Philippines to act willfully,” Wu told a briefing.

“We have responded with legitimate, resolute and restrained actions. The Philippine side should realise that provocations will only do themselves more harm than good, and soliciting foreign support will lead nowhere.” The latest flare-up occurred last week, when China used water cannon to disrupt another Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal for soldiers posted to guard a warship intentionally grounded on a reef 25 years ago.