Manalo, Blinken discuss stronger PH-US ties, tension in SCS

By SUNDY LOCUS,GMA Integrated News

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and US Secretary of State  Anthony Blinken talked on the phone on Thursday and discussed strengthening cooperation between the Philippines and the US in the New Year 2024.

The call came in the wake of a series of statements by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs claiming that the Philippines committed provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea.

According to a readout issued by the US Department of State, Manalo and Blinken also discussed "ongoing tensions in the South China Sea."

"Secretary Blinken underscored the United States’ ironclad commitments to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty," the readout read.

"Secretary Blinken and Secretary Manalo also exchanged ideas on how to reinforce U.S.-Philippines cooperation in the coming year, building on President Marcos’s official working visit to Washington, D.C., this past May," it added.

"Secretary Manalo reaffirmed the Philippines’ abiding interest to protect its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, while maintaining peace and security and upholding the international rules-based order," the Department of Foreign Affairs said. 

The DFA said Manalo emphasized the importance of open lines of communication and dialogue with other parties in pursuit of these objectives.

"Secretary Manalo and Secretary Blinken acknowledged the robust Philippines-United States alliance and bilateral relations, as well as discussed important opportunities for further strengthening cooperation in 2024," the DFA said.

China has said it would not turn a blind eye


to repeated "provocations and harassment" by the Philippines, amid heightened tensions over a spate of run-ins in the South China Sea (SCS).

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests over the use of water cannons and dangerous maneuvers by the China coast guard against resupply boats, causing "serious engine damage" to one, and "deliberately" ramming another.

Calling the accusations "purely false hype," Wu Qian, a ministry spokesperson, said the Philippine side insisted on sending vessels to "intrude into" waters near a disputed shoal and "proactively rammed" a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.

"China is always committed to resolving differences through dialogue and consultation and making joint efforts to maintain maritime stability, but we will not turn a blind eye to the Philippine's repeated provocations and harassment," Wu said. 

A Philippine military spokesperson said earlier this week the country was not provoking conflict in the South China Sea, after Chinese state media accused Manila of relying on US support to continually antagonize China.

"[The] Philippines is not provoking conflict. We follow international law and we are only implementing our domestic law," Armed Forces spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar told state-run broadcaster PTV.

"They are the ones committing all the violations," Aguilar added. 

The Philippines includes areas of the SCS that fall within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf as part of the WPS.

The July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling issued in The Hague upheld the Philippines' 200 nautical mile EEZ, outlawed Chinese aggression in the common fishing ground of the Scarborough Shoal, and rejected China’s expansive nine-dash-line claim of the entire SCS.

Beijing has refused to acknowledge the ruling.  —NB, GMA Integrated News