Philippine President Calls New China Coast Guard Rules ‘Worrisome’

MANILA – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr expressed concern on May 29 over new rules introduced by China’s coast guard, which could lead to the detention of foreigners in the South China Sea. These rules, effective from June 15, are seen as an escalation in the ongoing maritime sovereignty disputes between China and its neighboring countries, including the Philippines.

China’s updated regulations are aimed at enforcing a 2021 coast guard law that permits the detention of foreigners suspected of trespassing in contested waters. The South China Sea, a region of significant strategic and economic importance, has been a flashpoint for tensions, with China frequently accusing foreign vessels of illegal entry within areas that fall inside the exclusive economic zones of its neighbors.

President Marcos, currently on a state visit in Brunei, highlighted the serious implications of China’s new policy. “The new policy of threatening to detain our own citizens, that is different. That is an escalation of the situation,” he told reporters. He emphasized the Philippines’ intention to engage diplomatically with China to prevent aggressive actions and ensure that Filipino fishermen can operate freely in the South China Sea.

Marcos, taking a firmer stance than his predecessor, is bolstered by support from defense allies such as the United States, Japan, and Australia. He reiterated that managing these aggressive actions is crucial for maintaining peace and allowing all parties to conduct their activities without conflict.

China’s embassy in Manila has yet to respond to these concerns. Beijing continues to assert its jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea, a crucial waterway for over US$3 trillion in annual trade. Despite a 2016 international arbitral tribunal ruling that rejected China’s extensive claims, Beijing maintains its sovereignty based on historical records and old maps.

The situation remains tense as regional and global powers closely monitor the implications of China’s new coast guard rules and their impact on maritime security and international relations in the South China Sea.