Philippine president's tough remarks against China nothing but bravado

China Military Online
Lin Congyi
2024-06-07 11:10:13

When giving a keynote speech at the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue, Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. claimed that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the so-called "South China Sea arbitration" awards, which are regarded as the cornerstone of its South China Sea policy, both acknowledged the Philippines' legal rights. He struck a tough line against China by saying that his country would never give in on territorial issues. In response, a Chinese representative stated that China has exercised sufficient restraint over provocative actions, but there is a limit to such patience. He warned certain countries to be clear-minded about the pros and cons and come back to the right track of dialogue and consultation.

In February this year, the Philippine Senate passed the Maritime Zones Act, which falsely claimed islands and reefs and related waters of China's Huangyan Dao and the Nansha Qundao as Philippine maritime territory in an attempt to fixate the illegal award of the so-called "South China Sea arbitration" made in 2016 by means of its domestic legislation. In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Marcos mentioned UNCLOS and the arbitration award more than once with the ulterior motive to promote his false maritime assertions, distort and hype up the maritime situation, and cloak illegal expansion with international law.

History brooks no distortion. The Philippines is a country of archipelago that was once under the colonial rule of Spain and the US in succession. Its territory was demarked through the 1898 Treaty of Paris between the two colonists and a series of other international treaties, none of which included China's Nansha Qundao and Huangyan Dao. When the international maritime law was being established and revised in the 1950s, the Philippines took the opportunity to expand its maritime jurisdiction through domestic legislation, which gravely violated China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and contravened international law including the UN Charter.

In 2013, as the US put forth the "Rebalance to Asia Pacific Region" strategy, Manila unilaterally staged the political farce of the "South China Sea arbitration", which was disguised as a legal lawsuit. The arbitration is illegal from the very beginning and can't be equated with international law. Manila's misguiding brawl is doomed to fail. It must be pointed out that since China and the Philippines established diplomatic ties in the 1970s, the impact of the South China Sea issue on bilateral relations has been well contained. This has changed after Marcos came into office in 2022, since when Philippine ships' constant intrusion into waters around China's Ren'ai Jiao and Huangyan Dao has thrown bilateral relations on a nosedive.

There are reasons behind Manila's seemingly unreasonable moves. A professor from the University of the Philippines pointed out that the US regards Marcos as a tool or puppet in its proxy war, while the Philippine government is willing to be its pawn in regional affairs. A popular rumor goes that the Marcos family has hidden huge fortunes in the US, so they dare not say no to Washington. Therefore, Manila's provocations against China on the South China Sea issue may very well serve Marcos' personal and family interests instead of the interests of the Philippines. This has exposed him to strong doubts and criticism at home. Former Philippine presidential spokesperson Rigoberto D.Tiglao called his country "US' puppet state" and urged the incumbent administration to learn to live in peace with China.

It is also noticed that during the Shangri-La Dialogue, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn't give a definite response to Manila's question about what will activate the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, but instead emphasized that the US will strengthen dialogue with China to make sure the treaty would never have to be activated. This is interpreted as the US' subtle way of saying Manila isn't worth a direct conflict with China, which broke the Philippines' fantasy that the US would be behind it in all of its wild actions.

Manila's maritime assertions are historically and legally untenable. Marcos' tough remarks against China are nothing but bravado. His trick of having his way by fabricating a false narrative cannot deceive the international community. Rather, that will only reaffirm his image as the tool of the US hegemony and a destroyer of regional peace, pushing his country further to a dangerous and isolated position.

Editor's note: Originally published on, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of

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