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April 3, 2024 5:52 PM IST

Philippines ready to counter China’s re-supply interference

South China Sea | China | Philippines | interference | National Security Council

The Philippines is prepared to respond to China’s attempts to disrupt its supply missions in the South China Sea and protect its troops stationed in the waterway, a top security official said on Wednesday.

Jonathan Malaya, the spokesperson of the National Security Council, said the Philippines is committed to maintaining its position at the Second Thomas Shoal and there will be no let up in re-supply missions to Filipino soldiers on a grounded warship there.

“Our commitment to maintain BRP Sierra Madre will always be there, so any attempt by China to interfere with re-supply missions will be met by the Philippines in a fashion that protects our troops,” Malaya told a maritime forum.

Malaya reiterated that the counter-measures announced by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last week against “aggressive” actions by China’s coastguard will be “multi-dimensional” and not solely military in nature.

Part of these measures includes making “changes and adjustments” to Philippine re-supply missions and operations in the South China Sea, Malaya said without elaborating, citing security concerns.

Echoing an earlier call by the Philippine defence minister for the public not to fall victim to Chinese propaganda, Malaya warned of “foreign malign influence” meant to weaken the Philippines.

“We have seen that they are working here through their surrogates or if we may call them amplifiers, because there are definitely Chinese narratives which run counter to the truth,” Malaya said.

The Philippines and China have had a series of maritime run-ins, including water cannon use, and heated verbal exchanges that has triggered concern about an escalation at sea.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, policed by an armada of coastguard vessels, some more than 1,000 km (620 miles) from its mainland. China has maintained its responses have been appropriate in the face of Philippine encroachment.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s claims in the South China Sea had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

The row comes at a time when the Philippines and United States are deepening military ties, frustrating China, which sees Washington as interfering in its back yard.

“The root cause of the current escalation of maritime disputes between China and the Philippines is that the Philippines relied on the support of external forces, violated its commitments, and repeatedly engaged in provocations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing on Wednesday.

Wang urged the Philippines to “return to the correct path of properly managing disputes through dialogue and consultation as soon as possible.”

Next week, Marcos will meet his American and Japanese counterparts at a trilateral summit in Washington, and Malaya said a “big aspect” of their discussions will be on security.

(Reuters)

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