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‘PH on the frontline of battle for peace’

AUSSIE ADDRESS. President Marcos addresses the Australian House of Representatives at the Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. AFP with PPO Pool
Charles Dantes

Canberra—President Marcos told Australia’s parliament the Philippines was on the “frontline” of a battle for regional peace Thursday as he urged Canberra to join forces in facing the threats that disrupt peace, stability, and the rule of law.

With Beijing’s warships loitering in waters off the Philippines’ coast, Mr. Marcos told Australian lawmakers he will remain firm in defending the country’s sovereignty, despite “formidable” challenges.

“I shall never tire of repeating the declaration that I made from thefirst day that I took office: I will not allow any attempt by anyforeign power to take even one square inch of our sovereign territory,” Mr. Marcos said.

“The challenges that we face may be formidable, but equally formidable is our resolve. We will not yield,” he added.

The President was expected to return to Manila late Thursday. He will return to Australia on March 4 to attend an Association of SoutheastAsian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Melbourne.

Philippines authorities this week reported detecting Chinese navyvessels around Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal — an area seized by Beijing in 2012.

China has claimed the shoal and large swathes of the South China Sea as its own, ignoring regional objections and an international tribunal ruling that the claims have no legal basis.

Beijing has long deployed coast guard and other vessels around the Scarborough Shoal to prevent Philippine access.

But Mr. Marcos painted the deployment of warships as a new and “worrisome” escalation.

“The protection of the South China Sea as a critical global artery is crucial to the preservation of regional peace. And I dare say of global peace,” the President said.

“Once again, we must come together as partners to face the common challenges confronting the region. Not one single country can do this by itself. No single force alone can counter them by themselves,” he added.

Australia is one of only two countries—the other one being the United States— with which the Philippines has a Visiting Forces Agreement.

President Marcos wrapped up his two-day state visit in Canberra with a commitment to bolstering joint maritime activities and the signing of key bilateral agreements on maritime domain, cybersecurity, and trade.

Mr. President Marcos signs the official guest book before the state luncheon hosted by Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs. Linda Hurley with First Lady Lisa Araneta-Marcos witnessing.

“The three agreements exchanged today (Feb. 29) shall enhance information sharing, capability building, and interoperability between our relevant government agencies in the maritime domain and maritime environment, cyber and critical technology, and competition law,” he said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese shortly after their bilateral meeting.

“Defense and security remain a key area of cooperation between thePhilippines and Australia. We look forward to amplifying our joint activities and the capacity-building efforts in this regard,” he added.

Mr. Marcos also underscored the need for multilateralism to address the growing issue of climate change.

In his address to the Australian parliament, the President said: “We cannot allow geopolitics to paralyze global governance.”

“Now, more than ever, we need multilateralism to work. This isparticularly important given the scope of global cooperation needed to address our most pressing vulnerability – one that threatens the very survival of our peoples, one that threatens our very future,” he added.

He said the Philippines was one of the most climate-vulnerable countries after ranking first in the 2023 World Risk Index (see related story on A1 – Editors).

According to the President, the glaring disproportion between developed nations’ responsibility for climate change and the vulnerability it inflicts demands immediate action. With AFP

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’.”

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