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PBBM hits ‘dangerous use’ of coast guard, sea militia

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. insisted. at the 18th ASEAN-East Asia Summit

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to rally against the “dangerous use” of coast guard and militia vessels in the South China Sea.

In a speech at the 18th East Asia Summit, President Marcos emphasized the country’s commitment to uphold its sovereignty and maritime rights in its territories, citing the need to foster rules-based international order to ease the tension in the area.

“The Philippines remains resolute towards the peaceful resolution ofdisputes. We continue to support freedom of navigation and overflight, and the rules-based international order in the South China Sea,” Marcos said.

“We must not allow tensions in the South China Sea to further escalate,” he added.

The East Asia Summit was attended by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, US Vice President Kamala Harris, and other world leaders.

In his speech, Marcos also expressed his concern about the illegal,unreported, and unregulated fishing and the militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea.

The President has been pushing the ASEAN community for a peaceful and responsible way of dealing with disputes in the Indo-Pacific region.

Previously, the President praised the progress in negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which have been going on for more than 20 years.

Mr. Marcos had earlier urged ASEAN to resist the “hegemonic ambitions” in the South China Sea but did not single out China in his remarks.

But on the sidelines of the ASEAN-China Summit, Marcos told Chinese Premier Li Qiang that the Philippines will continue to push for cooperation with China, the Palace said Thursday.

A week before the ASEAN Summit, China drew international ire for using a 10-dash line map that marks nearly the entire South China Sea—including areas within the exclusive economic zones of other countries like the Philippines—as Chinese territory.

On the sidelines of the summit in Jakarta, Japan, the United States and the Philippines agreed to jointly address unilateral attempts to change the status quo, Japanese officials said.

Prime Minister Kishida, Vice President Harris, and President Marcos Jr. also pledged to further strengthen the three nations’ cooperation “in various forms” during their brief talks in Jakarta, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The talks were held as Washington and two of its security allies, Tokyo and Manila, have been boosting ties to counter Beijing’smaritime assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region against the backdrop of the US-China rivalry.

ASEAN on Wednesday raised concerns over “serious incidents’ in the South China Sea that have “put the safety of all persons at risk” and caused damage to the maritime environment. These incidents have “increased tensions and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region,” the regional bloc said in its Chairman’s Statement—without specifically naming China.

“We discussed the situation in the South China Sea, during which concerns were expressed by some ASEAN member states on the land reclamations, activities, and serious incidents in the area, including actions that put the safety of all persons at risk, damage to the marine environment, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region,” the statement read.

“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity,” it read.

“We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states.”

There is a need to “enhance mutual trust and confidence” and to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, andavoid actions that may further complicate the situation,” the regional bloc said.

While the ASEAN did not directly mention China, Asia’s largest economy has been repeatedly criticized for illegally building airstrips and other military facilities in shoals within other countries’ exclusive economic zones.

In August, several countries— including some ASEAN members— condemned the Chinese Coast Guard’s use of a water cannon against Philippine vessels delivering fresh supplies to Filipino soldiers station near Ayungin Shoal.

ASEAN emphasized the “need to maintain and further strengthen stability in the maritime sphere” through the crafting of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“We emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations, and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculation,” it said.

In several meetings, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. repeatedly urged his regional counterparts to take a firmer position in the South China Sea and put into operation a scheme that would allow

Southeast Asian navies to cooperate to secure the waters surrounding the regional bloc.

Aside from the South China Sea issue, the ASEAN also condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, and the “continued escalation of violence” in Myanmar, and called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.

President Marcos met with US Vice President Harris Wednesday night on the sidelines of the summit.

The White House said the meeting would build on US President Joe Biden’s meetings with Marcos in Washington in May, and the US Vice President’s visit to the Philippines in November 2022.

“The two leaders discussed the maritime security environment in the South China Sea, and reviewed opportunities to enhance bilateral maritime cooperation, including alongside like-minded partners,” the US readout said.

“President Marcos and the Vice President also discussed opportunities to bolster bilateral economic cooperation and enhance economic resilience,” the statement said.

Also on Thursday, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. told legislators that China’s issuance of a map detailing its new 10-dash line claim late last month proves its “expansionist agenda.”

Teodoro made the statement during the agency’s 2024 budget hearings before the House committee on appropriations chaired by Ako-Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a known critic of China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), inquired about the Defense Department’s concrete actions against the “aggressive acts” by China.

“The principles that we’ll put is that we will not back down, we’ll continue to be doing what we are doing, and we will continue to build up alliances with like-minded nations in order to enforce international law,” Teodoro said.

“The narrative always spun is that these alliances are being done to contain China. It is being done to enforce international law because what contains countries from expansion is international law and not any other force,” he added.

Teodoro said: “When China states that we are puppets of the United States … in order to contain them, they implicitly admit by using the word ‘contain’ that they have an expansionist agenda.”

“And that is proven by the new administrative map where they added another dash line. So that is the best evidence of their expansionist agenda; to dominate the whole South China Sea and perhaps beyond,” Teodoro said.

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