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DFA chief: South China Sea harassment incidents are common.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo admitted there have been frequent instances of “harassment” in the contentious South China Sea at a security conference in Munich, Germany, over the weekend.

Manalo claimed that by taking these moves, Manila was prevented from making the most of the resources in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones during a panel discussion on “Defending the United Nations (UN) Charter and the Rules-Based International Order.”

He said during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that “[o]n a day-to-day basis, there are still many events occurring in the South China Sea, and there are daily incidents, at least as far as we see it, of cases of harassment or land reclamation, which in many cases have been depriving the Philippines of the use of our exclusive economic zone.” The Department of Foreign Affairs has released a recorded video of the discussion (DFA).

The Philippines and other nations in our region, particularly those with claims in the South China Sea, “face these issues,” he said.

The DFA has complained to China over their “growing intensity of activities” against Filipino ships in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) since the beginning of 2023, actions that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has publicly criticized.

Manalo claimed that the Philippines is still adhering to the 2016 arbitral decision that found China’s nine-dash line over the important sea lane to be unlawful.

Manila is defending this choice, and Manalo said that the UN could assist further by raising awareness of the value of a maritime order based on laws.

Manalo stated that the Security Council may launch a discussion on “rule and order to prevail in the maritime domain and the South China Sea,” rather than just the arbitral verdict.

“I think those kinds of discussions would help create greater awareness on the importance of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and also maintaining a rules-based order so that any conflicts or disputes are settled through the rule of law and through peaceful means and not through coercive measures or aggressive moves,” he said.

The call was made during a time of increased hostilities between China and the Philippines following China’s coast guard’s use of a military-grade laser against a Filipino ship on February 6, momentarily rendering its crew blind.

Manalo stressed that Beijing and Manila’s ties would not be entirely defined by the maritime dispute over the WPS at the same panel discussion.

It’s a really complicated position because China and the Philippines, as well as other nations in the region, have close economic and cultural ties. As a result, the situation becomes more complex, he stated.

Manalo claimed to have had a “candid exchange” with Ambassador Fu Ying, vice head of the National People’s Congress of China’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

We discussed how to further bolster (Philippine-China relations) while managing our maritime differences and the Indo-Pacific region’s security problems, according to Manalo, as well as the most recent occurrences surrounding Ayungin Shoal.

International focus

Senator Francis Escudero praised President Marcos for keeping good relations with China and the United States in a radio interview on Sunday, saying that the government is handling the WPS in the correct way.

Escudero added that this administration is more active than past ones in publishing different comments, including the military, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the DFA.

Pangulong BBM is ‘Mas nagbibigay ng pahayag. Ating sariling DFA, Military Forces of the Philippines, and Coast Guard kaugnay sa paglabag ng Tsina sa WPS mas nagsasalita. Apparently, the ambassador of Tsina (Huang Xilian) was malaking hakbang at malaking pagbabago kumpara sa nagdaang administrasyon nung pinatawag ng Pangulo mismo at hindi ng kalihim ng Foreign Affairs to allow him to paliwanag. President Marcos, the DFA, AFP, and the Coast Guard are more active in making public declarations regarding transgressions of China in the WPS. Pabor ako dun at pinapakita nito na mahalaga at importante ito sa bawat Pilipino. In contrast to the previous administration, President Marcos summoning the Chinese ambassador rather than the DFA secretary represents a significant improvement. It demonstrated how significant the problem is to every Filipino,” Escudero remarked.

In the most recent incident, on February 6, in Ayungin Shoal at the WPS, a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel allegedly fired a military-grade laser light at a PCG ship that was participating in a rotation and resupply mission for the Philippine Navy.

Escudero claimed that because other nations, including the US, Australia, and Japan, denounced the CCG, the government’s actions attracted attention on a global scale.

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