Philippines Refutes China's Accusations, Asserts Lawful Conduct in South China Sea Tensions

The Philippine military denies escalating South China Sea tensions, countering Chinese accusations amid maritime incidents and emphasizing adherence to international law, while China blames Manila for provoking disputes and undermining regional stability.

Dec 26, 2023 - 10:03
Dec 26, 2023 - 10:03
Philippines Refutes China's Accusations, Asserts Lawful Conduct in South China Sea Tensions
A Philippine supply boat sails near a Chinese Coast Guard ship during a resupply mission for Filipino troops stationed at a grounded warship in the South China Sea, October 4, 2023. (Reuters/STAFF)

The military spokesperson for the Philippines asserted on Tuesday that the country is not intentionally escalating tensions in the South China Sea, countering accusations from China that Manila is encroaching on Beijing's territory.

This statement comes amid heightened tensions between the two nations, marked by a series of maritime incidents, including an alleged collision this month involving a ship carrying the Philippines' military chief, according to Medel Aguilar, who spoke to state broadcaster PTV.

Aguilar emphasized that the Philippines adheres to international law and enforces domestic laws within the limits of its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, where sovereign rights are upheld.

The remarks follow an article in the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, suggesting that the Philippines relies on US support branding this behavior as "extremely dangerous" and detrimental to regional peace and stability.

Aguilar countered by asserting that Philippine activities prioritize the safety of vessels and seafarers, placing blame on China for engaging in risky maneuvers that sometimes lead to sea collisions, stating, "They are the ones committing all the violations."

The Chinese embassy in Manila accused the Philippines of heightening tension by delivering construction supplies to a grounded navy vessel in the Second Thomas Shoal, claiming that Manila disregards China's goodwill and principles, as per China's foreign ministry.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, reiterated that recent events were entirely due to the Philippines changing its position, reneging on commitments, and deliberately provoking China. Mao expressed hope for a sensible choice by the Philippines to resolve differences through dialogue, urging collaboration with China to manage the maritime situation.

These statements come as the Philippines routinely conducts resupply missions for soldiers on an aged warship deliberately grounded in 1999 to safeguard Manila's maritime claims. China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, marked by the nine-dash line, overlap with the exclusive economic zones of neighboring claimants. A 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling invalidated China's claim, a position not recognized by Beijing.

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