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Philippines to still uphold peace at sea despite rising tensions

MANILA (ANN/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER) – The Philippines will continue to promote peace despite rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said.

In an interview here with Japanese media late Saturday evening, Marcos admitted that aggression in the heavily disputed waters has not ceased.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to be able to say that tensions have increased rather than diminished for the past months or the past years and that’s why we have to – but we continue to counsel peace and continue communication between the different countries – everyone that is involved,” he said.

The President reiterated the territorial dispute is “the most complex geopolitical challenge that the world faces.”

The West Philippine Sea, which is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has been the subject of contention between the Manila and Beijing.

On multiple occasions, the China Coast Guard has used water cannons, lasers, and dangerous maneuvers to scare off Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing repeatedly claimed that almost the entire South China Sea was theirs – through its nine-dash line that overlaps the West Philippine Sea – even if a July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration award invalidated that claim and ruled that the disputed territory belonged to the Philippines.

Marcos recognised that there is yet a solution to the row.

“I cannot say that we have found the answer yet. We are still trying to formulate that answer as we speak. And things are moving very quickly in many parts of the China Sea and so there are changes in terms of approaches,” he said.

In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, a Chinese Coast Guard ship uses water cannons on Philippine navy-operated supply boat M/L Kalayaan as it approaches Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea on December 10. PHOTO: AP