Tensions between China and the Marcos Jr. administration continues to escalate in the wake of the latest altercation in the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea as each country blames the other for the incident.
The Marcos Jr. regime said that on 22 October during a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, China’s “dangerous maneuvers” led to collisions between boats owned or sanctioned by the two governments. A China Cost Guard ship collided with a Philippine military-contracted boat Unaiza May 2, while a Chinese Maritime Militia ship collided with the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Cabra. China on the other hand claimed it was the Philippines which provoked the incidents.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, in its 26 December, 2023, statement, pointed out that, “Marcos has allowed his government to be used as pawn in the aggressive push of the US to consolidate its hegemony in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region, in order to counter the military and economic growth of its imperialist rival China.”
Under Marcos, the Philippines is increasingly being dragged into a rising military conflict between the US and China. In just over a year since assuming power, Marcos has allowed the US to construct at least four more military facilities (in addition to previous five) in “agreed locations” within the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). These facilities can be used to build launching systems for US missiles, to stockpile and deploy weapons, in line with the US strategy of surrounding China with its military forces in the “first island chain.”
On 11 January, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in a press briefing after a bilateral meeting with Manila’s Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, warned of “rough winds blowing across the South China Sea.” She expressed concern over the tensions in this vital waterway through which one-third of the world maritime commerce passes.
China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea in violation of international law including a 2016 arbitral ruling of the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim.
China routinely harasses Filipino fishermen, observers and Coast Guard vessels using lasers, water cannons and “dangerous maneuvers”. In June 2019, a Chinese steel trawler rammed and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the night. Only the presence of a Vietnamese fishing boat not so far away saved the lives of the 22 fishermen.