President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday reiterated that the Philippines will not give up an inch of its territory.
"This country will not lose one inch of its territory. We will continue to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty in accordance with our Constitution and with international law. We will work with our neighbors to secure the safety and security of our peoples," Marcos said in his speech during the alumni homecoming at the Philippine Military Academy in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City.
Marcos' comments came days after the Philippines protested China’s use of military-grade laser, including dangerous maneuvers, against Coast Guard vessel BRP Malapascua while on a resupply mission for Filipino troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal on February 3.
The Ayungin Shoal area is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016.
In a diplomatic protest lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Manila called out China’s Coast Guard for its “latest aggressive activities” against Philippine vessels, heightening tensions anew between the two Asian neighbors locked in years-long territorial disputes in the resource-rich waters.
Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian however on Friday said both the Philippine and Chinese sides should refrain from taking any provocative action in the disputed waters. He also said the China Coast Guard did not use military grade lasers.
"The country has seen heightened geopolitical tensions that do not conform to our ideals of peace and threaten the security and stability of the country, of the region, and of the world," Marcos said.
In September last year, Marcos told members of the Asia Society in New York that the Philippines will not give up any part of its territory.
“We will continue to work with China and other claimant states with the end in view of solving the issues involving the West Philippine Sea through diplomacy and through dialogue,” the President then said.
The Philippines, along with China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
Marcos in his speech also thanked the PMA alumni for their contributions and service to the country.
"I am filled with gratitude, as is the nation, for your contributions to the collective effort to build our beloved Philippines," he said.
The President then said efforts to develop the country will continue to give citizens a better future.
"In honor of those who have sacrificed their lives to build this path for us, we will continue to develop this country and aspire for better lives for our people," he said.
"In the past seven months, we have been working hard to steer the country to a high-growth trajectory. The current operating environment is uncertain and grows increasingly complex. As we continue to develop our internal resources, we must pursue a path of prosperity that contributes to goals shared with the international community," Marcos said.
"We have cemented our bilateral relations with our allies, with our partners, with our friends. And as we work on translating these investments into material benefits for our people, we must ensure that we continue to preserve the security and the safety of our nation," he added.
Marcos also said he hopes the PMA alumni will "continue to lead a life of service beyond self — an ethos we can attribute to a premiere institution such as the Philippine Military Academy."
The President also congratulated the PMA awardees, among them Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista, for their "exemplary performance" of their respective duties. —KG, GMA Integrated News