MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday, February 22, welcomed a visit from Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles, noting this “will be an important part of the response” to China’s increasing acts of aggression in the South China Sea.
Marles paid a call to Marcos in Malacañang Palace Wednesday afternoon after visiting the Department of National Defense, and holding a joint press conference with defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
“I truly believe that the future lies in strong alliances and in a united front in promoting again the values that we consider important to our countries,” Marcos said during Marles’ call.
“You are going now to Southern Philippines to welcome a contingent from Australia. So this is extremely important that we are seeing constantly in consultation, and we are seeing to continuously promote the rule of law and the sovereignty of nations,” the Presidenrt added.
Hours prior, Galvez and Marles confirmed they discussed the possibility of conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea.
These talks and Marles’ visit comes as China escalated its harassment of Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, or parts of the South China Sea under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo has described Chinese harassment as a “daily” occurrence in the resource-rich and strategic waterway.
In early February, a Chinese Coast Guard ship used a military-grade laser against the BRP Malapascua near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Marcos summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xillian, telling him that the laser-pointing incident “was only a part of what we are seeing as a – intensifying or escalating of the actions of the marine militia of China, the coast guard of China, and the navy of China.”
Recalling the meeting days later, Marcos said he told Huang that the two countries “have to find a way around this.” Marcos said he told Huang: “Because if we are such close friends, such as China and the Philippines, these are not the kinds of incidents that we should be talking about – between the president and the ambassador to the Philippines from China.”
Just months prior, during an early January state visit to Beijing, both Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a “new golden age” of relations between the two countries. – Rappler.com
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