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Marcos views latest China actions in WPS with 'great alarm'

MELBOURNE, Australia - President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said he views the recent actions by China against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea "with great alarm" but not enough to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

In a video message, Marcos said the Philippines would continue to protest such actions.

“I do not think that it is a time or the reason to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty. However, we continue to view with great alarm this continuing dangerous maneuvers and dangerous actions that are being done against our seamen, our Coast Guard,” Marcos said.

“And this time, they damaged the cargo ship and caused some injury to some of our seamen, and I think that we cannot view this in any way but in the most serious way. Once again, we will make our objections known and hope that we can continue to communicate to find a way so that such actions are no longer seen in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Philippines and the US agree 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.

At a press conference in Manila, the National Task for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) said that invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US needs a high-level consultation.

NTF WPS spokesperson Jonathan Malaya was asked if the MDT was being discussed by the two countries after China’s water cannon attack hurt four Philippine Navy personnel on board a resupply boat near Ayungin Shoal.

“The invocation of the MDT is subject to consultation between the Philippines and US. And given that, it is subject to high-level consultations. The NTF WPS cannot make any comment as of this time,” he said.

“This is a very sensitive matter and I think this matter is better addressed by higher authorities. Suffice to say that consultations are being conducted between the Philippines and the US over this issue,” he added.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller earlier said Washington is talking to the Philippines about recent "provocative actions" by China.

Miller said the US reaffirms its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines following the actions of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

"The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the South China Sea," he said in a statement.

‘Dangerous maneuvers’

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday accused China's coast guard of carrying out "dangerous maneuvers" that led to a collision between a Philippine ship and a Chinese vessel during a resupply mission for Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal

Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said the PCG vessel sustained minor structural damage.

Meanwhile, four people were injured after two China coast guard vessels used water cannons against a Philippine boat that was also part of the resupply mission.  

The BRP Sierra Madre has been grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999. It is manned by a small group of Marines and sailors. It has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.

Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group as well as the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

The United States is already talking to the Philippines about the recent "provocative actions" by China, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Miller said that the US stands with its Philippine allies in the face of these dangerous and unlawful actions.

Meanwhile, in an interview with SBS Filipino, Marcos said the tension in the South China Sea could be likened to the ''David and Goliath situation'' in the Bible. 

''Perhaps, people have commented that it's a very much David and Goliath situation but I also remind them, David won,'' Marcos said.

Without naming any country, Marcos also said that any nation “cannot decide to change their territorial area unilaterally.'' 

“That is an idea we had rejected a long time ago,'' the President said.

--with Joviland Rita/KBK/VAL/RSJ, GMA Integrated News