The Philippines is not looking for trouble in the South China Sea but would maintain a strong defense of the country’s territory and the rights of its fishermen, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Friday.
“What we will do is to continue defending the Philippines, the maritime territory of the Philippines, the rights of our fishermen to catch fish in areas where they are doing it for hundreds of years already,” he told reporters.
“That’s why I don’t understand why this happened,” he said referring to an ongoing spat with China over access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
The Chinese coastguard has disputed the Philippine version of the events, while the United States has weighed in behind ally Manila, with a senior defense official calling its move a “bold step” and underlining its treaty obligations to defend its former colony.
Mr. Marcos added: “Many of these are operational issues and that I really cannot talk about.
“But in terms of taking down the barrier, I don’t see what else we could do.”
Ties between the Philippines and China have deteriorated of late, in large part due to overtures from Mr. Marcos to deepen defense ties with Washington, including offering expanded access to its troops, ostensibly training and humanitarian purposes.
China, which says Scarborough Shoal is its territory, has chided the United States for what it calls provocations in the region. — Reuters