- Talks regarding a China-ASEAN COC has been “slow,” Marcos Jr. said
- The Philippine leader said the situation regarding Chinese military bases was “more dire” than before
- Beijing immediately rejected the Marcos administration’s move
The Philippines has initiated talks with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for a separate code of conduct regarding the South China Sea amid “slow” progress in the China-ASEAN COC negotiations, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Monday. However, Beijing was quick to reject the move.
Manila has “taken the initiative to approach those other countries around ASEAN with whom we have existing territorial conflicts,” the Philippines president said at a summit in Hawaii on Monday. He said his government has approached Malaysia and Vietnam for negotiations.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other ASEAN claimants in the South China Sea include Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. Beijing has sweeping claims in the area, which it emphasized in a new map that upgraded its infamous nine-dash line to a 10-dash line.
Marcos Jr. also spoke about China’s continuous building of military bases in the disputed territories, saying “the situation has become more dire than it was before.”
China’s latest military post in the South China Sea is located around 60 nautical miles (111 km) off of the Philippine coastline. Beijing’s military bases “have come closer and closer” to the Philippines, Marcos Jr. said.
China was quick to condemn the Philippine leader’s move of initiating talks with other ASEAN countries for a separate COC from that of the China-ASEAN COC.
“Formulating a code of conduct in the South China Sea is an important task for China and ASEAN countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Any departure from the DOC framework and its spirit will be null and void,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a press briefing Monday.
She also addressed Marcos Jr.’s comments regarding Chinese military bases getting closer to the Philippine coastline.
“China carrying out activities on its own territory is a matter purely within the scope of China’s sovereignty and other countries have no right to point fingers at it,” she warned.
The latest war of words came after Marcos Jr. met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco last Friday.
The president expressed his “concern” regarding the conduct of Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ships in disputed waters that ultimately led to two collisions at Second Thomas Shoal late last month.
He said constant communication was necessary to “find ways to avoid” similar incidents in the future and come up with “mechanisms to lower the tensions.”
Earlier this month, three Chinese speed boats chased a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) rubber boat near the Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin Shoal and Beijing calls Ren’ai Jiao. Second Thomas Shoal is part of the Spratly Islands, which is located roughly halfway between the Philippines and Vietnam in the middle of the South China Sea.
The Philippine rubber boat was on its way to the ship BRP Sierra Madre, which Manila deliberately grounded in the 1990s in a bid to reiterate its territorial claims at Ayungin Shoal.
A Philippine defense official said the removal of U.S. military bases from the country more than two decades ago appears to have emboldened China. Manila has since offered non-permanent bases across the country for U.S. forces.