PH to implement significant change in dealing with China over WPS

West Philippine Sea (File Photo)
West Philippine Sea (File Photo)

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said there will be a significant change on how the Philippines will respond to the aggression and harassment in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In an interview with Japanese media on Saturday, December 16, 2023, Marcos said the “traditional methods of diplomacy” of the Philippine government is no longer working as it is only repeatedly being disregarded by China.

He said that the situation in the WPS will not improve if the Philippines will continue to deal with China the same way it is dealing with the current situation.

“Well, to this point, we have resorted to the traditional methods of diplomacy where, should there be an incident, we send note verbal. Our embassy will send a démarche to the Foreign Affairs (Ministry) office in Beijing, but we have been doing this for many years now, with very little progress,” the President said.

“We have to do something what we have not done before. We have to come up with a new concept, a new principle, a new idea so that we move, as I say, we move the needle the other way. It’s going up, let’s move the needle back, so that paradigm shift is something that we have to formulate,” he added.

Marcos said the Philippine government will continue to seek assistance from its partners in the Indo-Pacific region and to “the rest of the world,” to come up with a joint position stating their responsibilities as far as the WPS is concerned, in a bid to de-escalate the tension in the WPS.

He expressed optimism that coming up with a unified idea will change the direction of the situation in the WPS.

“We do not want to go the point where there are incidents that might cause an actual violent conflict. Maybe from a mistake or a misunderstanding and these things happen all the time. And so, we have, in my review, it’s time that the countries that feel that they have an involvement in this situation, we have to come up with a paradigm shift,” said Marcos.

“So, and put that – put all of those elements together so that we have a, so that we have a good plan that will take us as I’ve said, down, not the road to conflict, but down the road to peace,” he added.

The Philippine government has filed dozens of diplomatic protests with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and sent note verbale amid the repeated aggression and harassment of Filipino troops and fishermen in the WPS.

Just recently, two Philippine vessels conducting regular humanitarian operations incurred significant damages due to the water cannoning of Chinese ships in the WPS.

China is insisting on its sovereign rights in the WPS as they refused to recognize an arbitral ruling, affirming the Philippines’ jurisdiction in the territorial waters.

Meanwhile, amid reports of displaying disrespectful behavior towards the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Romeo Brawner, Marcos said he does not see the need to ask China to recall its ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, as he understands that it is his job to defend his country all the time.

Replacing Huang with a new envoy would not change anything, Marcos said.

Brawner earlier said he had a face-to-face encounter with Huang who said that the Philippines is provoking China for its continued presence in the WPS.

The top military official maintained that China should leave the area, reiterating that the WPS belongs to the Philippines as it is within its exclusive economic zone.

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