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MARCOS WARNS OF WAR IF PINOY KILLED IN WPS, denounces illegal, coercive, dangerous actions of China

By ALFRED GABOT and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

Editor in Chief and Managing Editor

MANILA/SINGAPORE/WASHINGTON – Speaking at the Shangri-la Dialogue attended by world security leaders headed by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and China’s Dong Junon, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stood pat on protecting “every inch” of the country’s territory and warned China that Manila would consider any Filipino soldier killed by a Beijing water cannon to be an “act of war,” sparking fears of a further escalation of tension and conflict in South China Sea.

Marcos’ stand earned plaudits and support from many countries and leaders, isolating Beijing further. In Manila,  former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio praised Marcos for articulating that Philippine territory is not limited to islands within the Paris Treaty lines.

“This is the first time that a Philippine President has stated that Philippine territory is defined by the 1898 Treaty of Paris, as clarified by the 1900 Treaty of Washington, which stated that Philippine territory includes all islands of the Philippine archipelago lying outside the lines of the Treaty of Paris,” Justice Carpio said. “This is factually, legally, and historically correct.”

Marcos, during his policy speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, referred to both the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Washington as the basis of the country’s territorial scope.

“When we established our Commonwealth in 1935, we put together a constitution that defined our territory in accordance with the international treaties that became the basis of our archipelagic unity,” he said.

“The Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States crystallized our islands into a cohesive whole. The Treaty of Washington clarified (that) the extent of our sovereignty and (our) patrimony (transcends the) lines set by international powers.”

In the Treaty of Washington, Spain relinquished to the United States all title to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago, including those lying outside the lines defined in the earlier Treaty of Paris, particularly the islands of Cagayan, Sulu, and Sibutu and their dependencies.

“If by a willful act a Filipino — not only serviceman but even Filipino citizen — is killed … that is what 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,” Marcos said.

Under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and United States, the US is bound  to come to Manila’s defense should it come under attack even as China and the Philippines have  been clashing over territory in the region, during which some Filipinos have been injured but none have been killed thus far.

“Once we get to that point, that is certainly, we would have crossed the Rubicon. Is that a red line? Almost certainly it’s going to be a red line.” Marcos said.

 Marcos emphasized that such action would also increase the level of response not only from the Philippine government, but also its “treaty partners.”

“We already have suffered injury, but thank God, we have not yet gotten to the point where any of our participants, civilian or otherwise, have been killed,” he said.

“But once we get to that point, that is certainly we would have crossed the Rubicon and certainly crossed the Rubicon. Is that a red line? Almost certainly it’s going to be a red line,” he added.

In his speech during the summit, Marcos denounced the “illegal, coercive and aggressive actions” in the South China Sea which China has flooded with war ships, Coast Guard vessels and militia boats disguised as fishing ships.

Marcos said that the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries had a vision for “peace, stability, and prosperity” in the South China Sea, but that this was being undermined by other actors, without naming China.

“Unfortunately, this vision remains for now a distant reality. Illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions continue to violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” Marcos said.

Marcos emphasized the importance of the Philippines’  territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea: “We will never allow  anyone to detach it from the totality of the maritime domain that  renders our nation whole.”

“As President, I have sworn to this solemn commitment from the very first day that I took office. I do not intend to yield. Filipinos do not yield,” the chief executive added.

The President also pointed out that the country’s territorial claims were “derived not from imagination, but from international law,” citing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the 2016 arbitral ruling.

In his address titled “Seven Realities and Three Constants: Addressing the Regional Security Challenges facing the Indo-Pacific”, President Marcos said, “We sought to uphold and preserve the integrity of our country’s physical unity through international law.”

“Together with others, we put forward the archipelagic doctrine, which regards all archipelagic states as a single unit, with the waters around, between, and connecting their islands, irrespective of their breadth and dimensions, forming part of their internal waters,” he said.

President Marcos said this doctrine has since been enshrined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The same Convention also clarified the limits of each state’s maritime zones and defined the extent with which they could exercise sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over those zones, President Marcos pointed out.

President Marcos said the Philippines has made a conscious effort to align the definition of the territory and maritime zones with what international law permits. “This has been inscribed in Article 1 of our Constitution,” he pointed out.

  Secretary Austin, who earlier met China’s defense minister, Dong Junon the sidelines of Asia’s premier defense summit, underscored the importance of freedom of navigation under international law, especially in the South China Sea.

Marcos said tensions between the United States and China were destabilizing for Southeast Asia, calling on Washington and Beijing to work harder to resolve disputes.

Washington, meanwhile, declared  a “new era of security” in the Asia-Pacific region where the US has a strong network of alliances aimed at countering China’s growing military might and influence.

At the summit, Austin said the Asia-Pacific region remained a “priority” for Washington, saying the United States was secure “only if Asia is”.

“The United States can be secure only if Asia is and that’s why the United States has long maintained its presence in this region,” Austin told the Shangri-La Dialogue, which in recent years has become a barometer for US-China relations

 In another development, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) has promised to send assets to the South China Sea to support Manila in upholding sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

In a statement, the PCG said the USCG will deploy its North Pacific Coast Guard following the proposal of Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan for a “greater deployment” in high seas “to address the forthcoming threat” as China is set to implement a new regulation of detaining supposed trespasses in what it considers its maritime boundaries.

In the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines is on the frontlines of efforts to assert the integrity of UNCLOS as the Constitution of the Oceans.

“We have defined our territory and maritime zones in a manner befitting a responsible and law-abiding member of the international community. We have submitted our assertions to rigorous legal scrutiny by the world’s leading jurists,” President Marcos stressed.

He remarked that the lines drawn on the waters are derived not from imagination, but from international law.

“We have on our side the 1982 UNCLOS and the binding 2016 Arbitral Award, which affirm what is ours by legal right, ” President Marcos said.

“In this solid footing and through our clear moral ascendancy, we find the strength to do whatever it takes to protect our sovereign home — to the last square inch, to the last square millimeter,” he stressed.

The life-giving waters of the West Philippine Sea flow in the blood of every Filipino, Marcos said. “We cannot allow anyone to detach it from the totality of the maritime domain that renders our nation whole,” he declared.

President Marcos said that he was proud to co-sponsor our Archipelagic Baselines Law when he was a senator. The law defines the basis of the country’s maritime jurisdiction.

“As President, I look forward to signing our Maritime Zones Law, which will clarify the geographic extent of our maritime domain,” he said.

“We are not only unyielding in protecting our patrimony, our rights, and our dignity as a proud and as a free country. We are also firm in our commitment to regional and global peace,” he added.

“We renew this commitment at this turbulent juncture of our history. I will repeat what I said at the United Nations almost two years ago: Amidst challenging global tides, an important ballast stabilizes our common vessel: Our “open, inclusive, and rules-based international order that is governed by international law and informed by the principles of equity and of justice,” the President said. 

 Marcos Jr. emphasized y that any action in the South China Sea must conform to international-based order.

“Finally, any effort to resolve maritime differences in the East China Sea and the South China Sea must be anchored on international law, particularly UNCLOS, we must accord due regard to the legitimate interest of all parties, and respect legally-settled rights,” President Marcos said.

President Marcos called on members of the Indo-Pacific region to unite and make a bold stand against violations of international rules-based orders in the South China Sea (SCS).

President Marcos reminded Indo-Pacific members they are not just “bystanders to unfolding world events.”

“We should transcend geopolitics, find common ground, [and] work to strengthen global institutions. This requires active leadership on the part of middle powers, which have the capacity to cross political and ideological lines, forge genuine consensus, and lead credible efforts towards decisive multilateral solutions,” President Marcos before defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries, and military chiefs of mostly Asia-Pacific states.

“We need to begin by resoundingly rejecting misguided interpretations that paint our region as a mere theater of geopolitical rivalries. We are not mere bystanders to unfolding world events. We are the actors that drive those events. We are the main characters in our collective story. We are the owners of the narratives of our regional community,” he added.

“Thus, we reject any attempt to deny [our] strategic agencies, especially by force that seek to subordinate our interests anyone else’s,” he stated.

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