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PBBM: PH avoiding armed conflict with China, seeking peace in SCS

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Philippine News Agency/FILE PHOTO
MANILA – The Philippines is keeping the peace with China amid the tensions in the South China Sea (SCS), President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has said, discounting the possibility of waging a war on Beijing.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television's Haslinda Amin at MalacaƱan Palace in Manila on Tuesday night, Marcos maintained that his administration is not inciting conflict in the SCS.
The President stressed that he is merely defending the Philippine territory, amid China's incursions in the highly-contested waters.
"The threat has grown, and since the threat has grown, we must do more to defend our territory. And so maybe perhaps that's what people are seeing – a more robust defense of our territorial rights, as recognized by the international community, through international law, through the UNCLOS (United Nations on the Convention on the Law of the Sea)," he said.
"So, we feel very close to that. We have not instigated any kind of conflict. We have not instigated any kind of confrontation. We are just trying to feed our people. We are just hoping to let our fishermen fish, and to go about our business within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and within our baselines," Marcos added.
Asked about the United States' (US) readiness to side with the Philippines in case an armed conflict in SCS arises, Marcos said such a scenario is "precisely what we want to avoid."
Marcos said the Philippines is working with its partners and allies such as the US to prevent the possible escalation of tensions in the disputed waters.
"This is not poking the bear, as it were. We are trying to do quite the opposite. We are trying to keep things at a manageable level, to continue the dialogues, whatever they are, at every level," he said.
"And we have initiated many of those dialogues. We have dialogues at the sub-ministerial level, at the ministerial level and at the executive level. And so, I think that's what we hope to continue."
Marcos also reiterated that he has no plan to invoke the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US despite the growing tensions in the SCS, saying he thinks about peace "in the national interest."
He said only "existential threat" could trigger the Philippines to invoke the MDT, adding that the US "has been certainly very supportive in every way."
He, however, said it is "dangerous" to think about seeking the US' help, in the event that the situation in the SCS exacerbates.
"That's an incursion, for example, to occupy, which has already happened. But we're still trying to keep it peaceful," Marcos said.
"And the United States has really shown that it takes very seriously these agreements that we have. But it is dangerous for one to think in terms of when something goes wrong, we'll run to 'Big Brother.' That's not the way we treat it at all. We do this for ourselves. We do this because we feel, that we have to do it. And it's not at the behest of the United States," he added.
Marcos made the remarks before his scheduled trilateral summit with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on April 11 to discuss the three countries' agenda to advance their defense, security, and economic interests.
The first-ever trilateral summit will be held in the wake of China's provocative actions in the SCS. (PNA)

Last Modified: 2024-Mar-21 09.53.30 UTC+0800