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Marcos: Laser-pointing incident partly escalatory, invoking MDT unnecessary

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Saturday that the laser-pointing incident is only a part of what constitutes an "escalatory act" that would intensify Philippine-China tension in the West Philippine Sea, and that invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US is unnecessary.

Also, Marcos said that he reminded Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian during their meeting in Malacañang after the February 3 laser-pointing incident that China’s aggressive acts against the Philippine Coast Guard and Filipino fishermen, was not agreed upon in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Well, what were discussed, and I said that the laser-pointing incident was only a part of what we are seeing as intensifying or escalating of the actions of the militia --- marine militia of China, the coast guard of China, and the navy of China,” Marcos said in a chance interview during his visit to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City for the Alumni Homecoming 2023.

“I said we have to find a way around this because if we are such close friends such as China and the Philippines, these are not the kind of incidents that we should be talking about between the President and the Ambassador to the Philippines from China,” Marcos added.

“And I reminded him (Huang Xilian) that this was not what we agreed upon with President Xi when I visited him in Beijing,” Marcos said.

To recall, Marcos summoned Xilian over to Malacañang to express his serious concern over the increasing frequency and intensity of actions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

Nevertheless, Marcos said that invoking the county’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States would be unnecessary.

“Perhaps it is because if we activated that, what we are doing is escalating the --- intensifying the tensions in the area and I think that would be counterproductive,” he said.

“Besides, despite the fact that it was a military-grade laser that was pointed at our Coast Guard, I do not think that that is sufficient for it to trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Marcos added.

Under the MDT, the Philippines and the US agreed that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either the Philippines or the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.

Instead, Marcos said the Philippine government is constant contact with its treaty partners, including its ASEAN partners and other partners in Asia for “better recourse,”  as the Mutual Defense Treaty would only “provoke the tensions rather than cool the tensions down.”

The Philippine Coast Guard said a Chinese ship pointed a “military-grade” laser light at one of its vessels supporting a Philippine Navy rotation and resupply mission on Feb. 3.

A Philippine Naval vessel – the BRP Sierra Madre – has been grounded at Ayungin Shoal since 1999, in an area 105.77 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine province of Palawan, and well within the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China insists that the Ayungin Shaol, which it calls Ren'ai Reef, is part of China's Nansha Islands or what the Philippines refers to as Spratly Islands.

Defending its coast guard's action, Beijing accused the Philippine Coast Guard vessel of intruding into the waters off the Ren'ai Reef “without Chinese permission.”

China virtually claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs already lodged a diplomatic protest, calling out China’s Coast Guard for its “latest aggressive activities” against Philippine vessels. —LBG, GMA Integrated News