Philippines’ Marcos Bolsters Maritime Security Amid Rising China Tension

MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr of the Philippines has issued directives to enhance the nation’s coordination on maritime security in response to escalating tensions and challenges to territorial integrity, particularly in the context of disputes with China.

The order, dated March 25 and disclosed on March 31, comes amidst a backdrop of increasing maritime confrontations and disputes over areas in the South China Sea. While not explicitly mentioning China, the move follows a pattern of bilateral disagreements and incidents involving overlapping territorial claims.

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, contested by several neighboring countries including the Philippines, have been a source of ongoing friction. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 against China’s territorial claims in the region. The most recent incident occurred when China deployed water cannon to obstruct a Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal, where a Philippine warship has been intentionally grounded on a reef for 25 years.

President Marcos, in his order, emphasized the need to address various challenges threatening territorial integrity and peace. He pledged to implement counter-measures against any illegal, coercive, or aggressive actions by China’s coast guard.

The order also involves an expansion and reorganization of the government’s maritime council, with the inclusion of key figures such as the national security adviser, solicitor general, and representatives from intelligence agencies. Notably, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been specifically named among the agencies supporting the council, indicating a broader military role in maritime security.

Renamed as the National Maritime Council, the body aims to devise unified and effective strategies for safeguarding the Philippines’ maritime security and enhancing domain awareness. Additionally, the council will benefit from the expertise of various agencies, including the space agency and academic institutions specializing in maritime affairs and law of the sea.

President Marcos’ initiatives underscore the Philippines’ commitment to assert its sovereignty and protect its interests in the face of complex maritime challenges, signaling a proactive stance amidst regional tensions.