Marcos: Maritime dispute not just about hegemony
JAKARTA—President Marcos rejected attempts to portray the South China Sea territorial dispute as a contest between two superpowers, saying these undermined the sovereignty of other countries involved in the conflict. “The Philippines firmly rejects misleading narratives that frame the disputes in the South China Sea solely to the lens of strategic competition between two powerful countries. This not only denies us our independence, our agency, but it also disregards our own legitimate interests,” he told regional leaders at the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Tuesday evening.
While Mr. Marcos did not identify the two superpowers, both China and the United States have expressed their stand on the matter: With the former claiming almost the entire South China Sea and the latter expressing its support for other claimant countries’ freedom of navigation.
At the same time, the President warned Asean leaders that the continuing escalation of tensions between the two powerful countries may lead to dire consequences.
“As tensions and distrust between the great powers escalate, so, too the prospect of miscalculation that threatens to engulf the region with the severest consequences for all of us. It is imperative that we leverage the Asean regional architecture to serve as the diplomatic bridge that promises mutual understanding, strategic trust and peaceful settlements of disputes,” he said.
In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday evening, Mr. Marcos said that with peace still a “distant reality” in the South China Sea, all parties must practice self-restraint amid rising tensions.
But he emphasized that while the Philippines was not seeking more conflict, it was duty-bound to meet any challenge to its sovereignty.
“We call upon all parties for self-restraint on all activities that complicate disputes in the South China Sea. We must not undermine regional peace, stability and security. We cannot emphasize enough that actions, not words, should be the ultimate measure of our commitment of securing peace and stability in the South China Sea. Anything else simply does not suffice,” Mr. Marcos said.
Not seeking conflict
Despite rising tensions in the area, the Philippines will continue to uphold its navigational freedom and rights in accordance with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he added.
“Let me be clear, we do not seek conflict. But it is our duty as citizens and as leaders, to always rise and meet any challenge to our sovereignty, to our sovereign rights, and our maritime jurisdiction in the South China Sea. No country would expect any less. No country would do any less,” the President said.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, meanwhile, said that the United States and Japan have sought a meeting with the President at the Asean Summit but he was uncertain if it would happen due to scheduling conflicts.