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June 17, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11400

Philippine President Marcos To China: The South China Sea Is The Passageway For Half Of World Trade; There Is No Such Thing As A Regional Issue Any Longer

June 17, 2024
China, Philippines | Special Dispatch No. 11400

Late Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (1931 –2017):

"Pray hard, since China's dream is to invade the whole world.

The Philippines is one of its favorites."

On May 31, 2024, during a press conference at the Shangri-la Dialogue, Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. underlined the important of the South China Sea for the whole world and not just for the ASEAN countries. Marcos said: "I would even go far as to say: There is no such thing as a regional issue any longer. We have all experienced the unexpected effects of the war in Ukraine, of the conflict in the Middle East. And all of these... And when we talk about the South China Sea, we have to also remember that the South China Sea is the passageway for half of the world trade. And therefore, the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation of the South China Sea is world issue."

Marcos has also discussed ASEAN centrality. It is worth noting that a strike by China on one of these countries is a strike against all of them. Yet, all the ASEAN countries know that a strike on one of them has serious implications for everyone else.

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel "Babe" del Gallego Romualdez reported: "China's growing influence is triggering concern and worry among Southeast Asians, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute's ASEAN Studies Centre. A large majority of respondents – 74 percent – who all came from ASEAN member-nations, said they were worried (or not welcoming) of the rising Chinese influence in their countries."[1]

Meanwhile multilateral security partnership are being shaped, like the alliance of the U.S.-Australia-Philippines-Japan, referred to as the "Squad," in order to counterbalance China's hegemonic ambitions in the region. Ambassador Romualdez said: "There is no doubt the Philippines has benefited from minilateralism, which I believe continues to be a viable option for nations that promote cooperation in dealing with issues of mutual concern.

"In 2002, we worked with Indonesia and Malaysia through an information exchange agreement to combat transnational crimes. In 2017, we entered into a trilateral agreement to conduct joint patrols and share information following a series of kidnapping activities by the Abu Sayyaf Group. Last April, the Philippines, Japan and the US entered into a trilateral cooperation agreement to advance security and economic prosperity among the three nations. In May, the Philippines, Australia, Japan and the US pursued further collaboration to promote a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. No doubt minilateralism enables small countries to address common challenges when they put their resources together, and these efforts become even stronger and more effective when backed by middle and global powers."[2]

It is worth noting that the Philippines and the United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951. The treaty has eight articles and requires both allies to defend each other if another party attacks the Philippines or the United States. Hence, one major accident provoked by China in the West Philippine Sea could trigger the U.S. or the Philippines to invoke the MDT.

Below is Philippine President Marcos' answers during the press conference at the Shangri-La Dialogue:

Philippine President Marcos: "The Entire World Has Become Stakeholder In The Peace And Stability Of Our Region"

After the delivering the keynote address at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore on May 31, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. got his first question from a Chinese Major General Xu Hu, the Commandant of the Chinese military's International College of Defense Studies, who gave a long analysis about ASEAN centrality and asked about the Philippines' "behavior" in the South China Sea.

Following is the transcript:[3]

Q: "Yes, my question is: President, in the eyes of the international community, some of your Philippines' behavior in recent day – recent times is now sounds like you really considered other parties' comfort level and there is a risk of ruining the regional long earned long-lasting peace since the end of the [unclear] history. What is your comment on that? Thank you very much."

PRESIDENT MARCOS: "Well, I cannot imagine what you must be referring to, if the reference or the allusion is to the Philippines somehow tearing apart what we have agreed on in terms of ASEAN Centrality. Quite the contrary.

"I think if you examine more closely the remarks that I just made, I precisely focused on ASEAN Centrality and that the principles that are laid down, that are involved in the concept of ASEAN Centrality are something that we must use to guide us.

"And if we have been distracted in the past years or so, then it is time for us to return and remember once again what ASEAN was created for.

"And that is to create an aggrupation of nations that have very many common interests and that can be – and partnerships within that multilateral organization can help each other and help the region.

"And so, the Philippines still remains true to the principles that were established and upon which ASEAN was born.

"And I think, as I said, that many of these things... We no longer speak of today but we must because they are as relevant today as they ever were, perhaps even more so because the global situation is a great deal more complicated than it used to be before.

"I would even go far as to say: there is no such thing as a regional issue any longer. We have all experienced the unexpected effects of the war in Ukraine, of the conflict in the Middle East. And all of these...

"And when we talk about the South China Sea, we have to also remember that the South China Sea is the passageway for half of the world trade.

"And therefore, the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation of the South China Sea is world issue.

"And that is what I am opposing. And I am saying that this is – yes, it is a regional issue. But we must examine and be part of the discussion, we must include all parties in that discussion because now, it is not just ASEAN Member-States who are stakeholders and it is quite easy to see that it is in fact the entire world that have become stakeholders in the peace and stability of our region."


(Source: Pco.gov.ph)

Philippine President Marcos Talks Red Lines

During the press conference, Philippine President Marcos stated that the Philippines would respond if a Filipino citizen was killed by China's use of water cannons against Filipino vessels: "If a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is I think very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly."

Below is the transcript:[4]

Q: "Thank you, John. It's [unclear] from the Irish delegation of two people, another small country. President Marcos, I am going ask you a very direct question, if you don't mind, which is: If Chinese Coast Guard water cannons killed a Filipino sailor, would that cross a red line? And then, can you also give us a sense of what are the actions that will trigger a request from Manila to Washington to invoke US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty? Thank you."

Q: "Magandang gabi, Mr. President. Good evening, Mr. President. My question relates to your vision for the force posture of the Philippines by the end of your term. So, the Philippines has always discussed that the defense of our national territory is primarily our responsibility under the unilateral defense plan. So, what specific force packages are you eyeing particularly in the next coming years and what exactly are we to expect after Horizon 3 of the AFP Modernization Program? Thank you."

PRESIDENT MARCOS: "Thank you. Well, the gentleman is referring to the Horizon 3 acquisition program. It's the acquisition program that the – our Department of National Defense has just completed. Then, we are presently in the process of finding suppliers for all the different requirements that we have to build up our capabilities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"And, that we are hoping that... You know, these acts are just a deterrence and we – as I say to work for peace, prepare for war and there is... It is an unfortunate truth but... And that is why we have undertaken this long-term – it has been going on for many years now – this long-term plan of increasing the capabilities of our military and civilians such as the Coast Guard in the Philippines.

"To go back to the first question: what would happen if there was an incident that ended up killing a Filipino serviceman, be it a Coast Guard or in the military and part of the Navy.

"Well, that would be – that would certainly increase the level of response and if by a willful act on a Filipino, not only serviceman but even a Filipino citizen by... If a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is I think very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly.

"And our treaty partners, I believe, also hold that same standard for when the actions, with the joint action will be undertaken in support of any such incident in the Philippines.

"Once we have already – we already have suffered injuries, but thank God, we have not yet gotten to the point where any of our participants, civilian or otherwise have been killed.

"But once we get to that point, that is certainly we would have certainly crossed the Rubicon. Is that a red line? Almost certainly it's going to be a red line."

 

[1] Philstar.com/opinion/2024/05/12/2354389/divide-and-conquer-chinas-tactical-gambit, May 12, 2024.

[2] Philstar.com/opinion/2024/06/09/2361386/philippine-foreign-policy-taking-center-stage, June 9, 2024.

[3] Pbbm.com.ph/speeches/question-and-answer-session-at-the-21st-iiss-shangri-la-dialogue/, May 31, 2024.

[4] Pbbm.com.ph/speeches/question-and-answer-session-at-the-21st-iiss-shangri-la-dialogue/, May 31, 2024.

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