The Philippines’ concerns over encroachments in the West Philippine Sea are mainly from a national standpoint and are beyond the growing rivalry between China and the United States.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo made this clarification as he explained the reason behind Manila’s actions in the resource-rich waters against the backdrop of the two major powers’ strategic competition in the region.
“Our concerns are mainly from the national standpoint and should not be viewed through the prism of the US-China rivalry,” he said in a speech last March 6, a copy of which was furnished to the media on Friday.
Dozens of diplomatic protests had been filed against China under President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s administration over the illegal presence of vessels and harassment of Filipino enforcement agencies in the West Philippine Sea.
Manalo stressed that these incidents have a “decidedly human element to them” that cannot be simply ignored.
Reclamations in the area also pose “long-term economic costs” to coastal community which is equivalent to the destruction of seven natural world heritage areas, the top diplomat said citing scientists.
Manalo said Manila’s approach in dealing with China would be compartmentalized as the maritime row is “not the sum total” of its relations, but it will continue upholding its rights under the international law, including the 2016 arbitral ruling.
At the same time, the country will engage with the United States as Marcos’ independent foreign policy is rooted on strengthening bilateral ties with all partners.
CURRENTPH NEWS SERVICE