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Thursday, February 29, 2024

PH envoy warns Filipino patience has its limits over WPS issue

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The country’s envoy to the United States warned Wednesday there will be a time that the Philippines “will rise up” in its fight for its territory in the West Philippine Sea after another aggressive move by the Chinese Coast Guard in the country’s waters.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said that while he wishes the country would not be tested, the patience of the Filipino people is “very high” but also has “its limits.”

“We have just sat by and just tried our best to talk to them to try and just simply allow our fishermen to fish,” he said in a television interview with ANC.

“But you know, Filipino patience has also its limits. And I know that…one day, I hope it never happens, that the Filipino will rise up and say enough is enough,” the Filipino diplomat said, hoping this stance would be relayed to those challenging the country’s territorial rights.

This developed as the Department of National Defense said it stands by the narrative of the Philippine Navy that the Chinese Coast Guard forcibly took debris local authorities were towing off the coast of Pag-Asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, prompting a note verbale from Manila to Beijing.

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“We stand by the accounts of our personnel in the area that, contrary to the narrative of the Chinese side, the debris being towed by a Philippine vessel to Naval Station Emilio Liwanag for inspection was rudely taken by personnel from CCGV5203,” the DND said in a statement.

“Philippine authorities are also investigating the reported explosions near Pag-asa Island after the incident involving the floating debris. The situation is still developing; thus, we cannot provide additional details at this time,” it added.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a note verbale to China to ask Beijing to explain its “more benign” account of an incident involving the Chinese Coast Guard taking rocket debris from Filipino soldiers in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

“Yes, I think that that’s what we need to do,” the President said in an interview with reporters Tuesday.

Ambassador Romualdez made the statement after the United States—through US Vice President Kamala Harris, who just left the country after a three-day working visit—reiterated its commitment to the Philippines in case of an armed attack on its forces in the South China Sea.

The Filipino envoy said it is “very important” for the country that the West Philippine Sea is ours.

“There’s nothing that will make us move otherwise. And I think President Marcos said that very well—we will not give up one inch of our territorial waters,” he said.

“And if our allies like the United States will help us, of course, we will. We not only welcome it, but we are also very happy with that kind of commitment coming from an ally like the United States,” he added.

The Philippines is still embroiled in a territorial dispute with China and other nations over the South China Sea, particularly some parts of the West Philippine Sea.

A 2016 United Nations arbitral tribunal ruling declared the Chinese so-called nine-dash claim over the disputed waters illegal and instead upheld Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

President Marcos said Manila and Beijing “will have to find a way to resolve this” with the way the Asia-Pacific region “is heating up.”

If someone messes up, if any mistakes occur, if a misunderstanding occurs, then the flame will only get bigger,” he added.

He said National Security Adviser Secretary Clarita Carlos recommended sending China a note verbale regarding the incident.

“The report of the Philippine Navy and the report which came from China were inconsistent because the word ‘forcibly’ was used in the Philippine Navy report. And that was not the characterization in the Chinese Navy report or the report coming from China,” Mr. Marcos said.

“So we have to now ask the Chinese: why is it that their account is so different and it’s much more benign?” the President said.

The commander-in-chief said he has complete trust in the Philippine Navy and believes its account of the incident.

Beijing has insisted the handover took place after a “friendly consultation.”

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of it.

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