Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the diplomatic efforts with China over the South China Sea dispute are heading “in a poor direction” and that a “paradigm shift” is needed to resolve the issue.
Marcos, who spoke to Japanese media during his visit to Tokyo for the ASEAN-Japan summit, said that China has been disregarding the traditional methods of diplomacy that the Philippines has been using for years, such as sending notes, verbales and démarches.
What are the causes and consequences of the poor direction?
The diplomatic efforts with China have been going in a poor direction due to several factors, such as:
- China’s continued assertion and expansion of its claims over most of the South China Sea, which overlap with the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and which have been invalidated by an arbitral tribunal in 2016.
- China’s repeated aggression and provocation against the Philippines’ vessels and personnel in the disputed waters, such as using water cannons, lasers, and radio warnings, and blocking or harassing the resupply missions to the Philippine-occupied features.
- China’s rejection and non-compliance with the arbitral ruling and the international law, and its insistence on bilateral negotiations and joint development with the Philippines, which the latter views as unfair and unequal.
The poor direction of the diplomatic efforts with China has resulted in several consequences, such as:
- The erosion and violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and the loss and damage of its natural resources and marine environment.
- The increase and escalation of the tensions and risks of conflict and confrontation between the Philippines and China, and the deterioration and instability of the regional peace and security.
- The weakening and undermining of the Philippines’ alliance and partnership with the United States and other countries, and the isolation and marginalization of the Philippines in the international community.
What are the possible solutions and alternatives for the paradigm shift?
Marcos said that the Philippines needs a paradigm shift, or a new concept, principle, or idea, to deal with China’s aggressions in the South China Sea, and that the Philippines needs to work with other countries that have an involvement or interest in the situation. Some of the possible solutions and alternatives for the paradigm shift are:
- Strengthening and enhancing the Philippines’ defense and deterrence capabilities, such as modernizing and upgrading its military equipment and facilities, and conducting more patrols and exercises in the disputed waters.
- Invoking and activating the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which obliges both countries to assist each other in case of an armed attack in the Pacific area, and which covers the South China Sea according to the US interpretation.
- Seeking and pursuing multilateral cooperation and support from other countries, such as the ASEAN, Japan, Australia, and India, and promoting and upholding the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the region.
Marcos, therefore, is calling for a new approach to the South China Sea issue, as he sees the current diplomatic efforts with China as ineffective and futile.
Marcos, however, also said that he hopes to avoid any violent conflict with China, and that he respects China as a friend and a neighbor. Marcos, therefore, faces a delicate and difficult balance between asserting and protecting the Philippines’ rights and interests, and maintaining and improving the Philippines’ relations with China.