Nationalists urge Marcos Jr to enforce international ruling on the South China Sea

The Court in the Hague rejected China's territorial claims in the area. Last month a hundred Chinese ships were reported near the Julian Filipe coral reef claimed by Manila. The new government has promised to defend country’s borders, but does not want a confrontation with China. The US warns that it will defend the Philippines if it is attacked.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of Philippine nationalists and activists have asked the new president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, to protect country’s borders from China's territorial claims by enforcing the 2016ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Protesters gathered yesterday outside the Chinese consulate in Makati, the financial district of Metro Manila on the sixth anniversary of the court ruling.

Six years ago, the Court rejected China's claims to nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea saying they were “without legal basis”.

The Philippines – along with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and partly Indonesia – has rejected China’s territorial demands; for the past several years, Beijing has been militarising some islands and coral reefs in the South China Sea.

US warships conduct regular patrols near these military outposts to contain China’s expansion,

Last month, Philippine authorities reported the presence of a hundred Chinese ships in the waters around the Julian Filipe coral reef, which is located within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

Similarly, since 2012, Chinese boats have refused to stay away from the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, a point of constant friction between Manila and Beijing.

Responding to the protesters, Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique A. Manalo reiterated the position of the Marcos Jr. administration, namely that Manila supports the 2016 ruling.

This is an apparent change of focus from the policy of Marcos Jr.'s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who had built a privileged relationship with China.

Unlike his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, Duterte tried to reduce tensions with the Chinese by ignoring the ruling of the Permanent Court. In exchange, Beijing promised trade and investments that critics say did not materialise.

Analysts doubt that Marcos Jr. will actually change Duterte's line. The Philippine president has on several occasions said that he does not want a war with China. Instead, he has indicated that he wants to strike a balance between Beijing and Washington, which are engaged in a tough geopolitical confrontation in Southeast Asia.

The US position on this issue is clear. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged China to respect the 2016 verdict, adding that the US would be forced to defend the Philippines – its ally under an existing treaty – in the event that its Armed Forces are attacked in disputed waters.

(Photo RFA)