Philippines says sovereignty is key in South China Sea talks

March 18, 2024 - 9:03 AM
A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen blocking the direction of a Philippine Coast Guard ship conducting a resupply mission for Filipino troops stationed at a grounded warship in the South China Sea, October 4, 2023. (Reuters/Adrian Portugal/File Photo)

 Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said the country’s sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction are essential principles should there be a resumption of joint exploration talks with China in the South China Sea.

“We cannot, at any point somehow compromise the territorial integrity of the Philippines,” Marcos told reporters late Friday in Prague.

Talks over joint energy exploration in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone were terminated in 2022, four years after the two countries committed to work together, with the Philippines’ foreign ministry citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty.

Tensions have escalated in the South China Sea since 2022 when Marcos pursued warmer relations with treaty ally the United States, a reversal of his predecessor’s pro-Beijing stance.

Marcos said the Philippines did not verbally, militarily, or diplomatically instigate any tension in the South China Sea.

“We did not begin all of these problems. All of these commotion has not been caused by the Philippines,” Marcos said.

Earlier this month, the Philippines accused the China Coast Guard of firing water cannons at one of its vessels involved in a resupply mission in the area, injuring four navy personnel.

The Philippines won a landmark arbitration case in 2016 that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, where about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. China does not recognize the ruling.

Chinese state-owned oil and gas giant CNOOC Ltd 0883.HK has discovered a new reserve in the South China Sea containing over 100 million tons of oil equivalent proved in-place.

— Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Stephen Coates