Philippines courts Europe to back its illegal moves in South China Sea
'External involvement only exacerbates the already complex confrontation'
Published: Feb 04, 2024 08:48 PM Updated: Feb 04, 2024 09:46 PM
A Philippine vessel approaches a China Coast Guard vessel in a dangerous manner and leads to a bump in waters off China's Ren'ai Reef in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on October 22, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from a video released by China Coast Guard

A Philippine vessel approaches a China Coast Guard vessel in a dangerous manner and leads to a bump in waters off China's Ren'ai Reef in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on October 22, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from a video released by China Coast Guard

While the Philippines has been provoking tensions in the South China Sea, Enrique Manalo, the country's foreign sffairs secretary, has presented himself as a proponent of peace during an international forum, aiming to garner support from European nations to further its illegal objectives in the region. 

Chinese observers cautioned against the Philippines' attempts to get external parties involved in the South China Sea, saying it will only serve to internationalize the issue and exacerbate the already complex confrontation. They criticized the Philippines for instigating conflict and called for a return to a more cooperative approach to solve the disputes.

"If the Indo-Pacific is to remain as an engine of global growth and human flourishing, especially in the midst of the global uncertainties we face and sharpening geopolitical conflicts, we need to firstly keep to the path of peace and secondly build resilience," Manalo told the 3rd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum held in Brussels, Philippine News Agency reported on Saturday. 

Ignoring its recent proactive moves in the South China Sea, Manalo cited the rising militarization and pattern of aggression of others in the region to back up his theory. The real picture is that since last year, the Philippines has been continuously taking actions on the South China Sea despite repeated warnings from China. The Philippines has repeatedly intruded into the waters near Huangyan Dao (Huangyan Island) and Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef), and has illegally transported construction materials to Ren'ai Jiao in an attempt to achieve permanent occupation. 

Most recently, the China Coast Guard (CCG) said on Saturday that it has monitored and tracked the entire progress of a Philippine civilian vessel that delivered supplies to a military vessel illegally "grounded" at China's Ren'ai Jiao. The CCG stressed that China unequivocally holds sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters, including Ren'ai Jiao.

By emphasizing the importance of peace-keeping and advocating for stronger collaboration, the Philippines has strategically positioned itself, the actual tension provoker, as a victim, aiming to sway European countries, Zhu Feng, director of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Zhu believes that the Philippine foreign minister's statements are aimed at garnering more attention from European countries and encouraging NATO members to intervene in the dispute. Zhu said that the intention behind this is to use the strength of Europe or NATO to sustain the confrontation with China regarding the sovereignty dispute over the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

The recent developments involving China and the Philippines in the South China Sea are caused by the Philippines' change in policy and position, refusing to honor its commitments, violations of international law and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and deliberate infringement of China's sovereignty and provocations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a press conference on December 26, 2023. "The responsibility lies with the Philippines," she said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned that relevant countries should halt their irresponsible moves and respect regional countries' effort to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

EU countries have not only increased their diplomatic efforts and addressed South China Sea issues in bilateral agreements with regional countries, but have also bolstered their military presence in the region over the past two years. This includes participating in joint military exercises with relevant countries and considering the establishment or restoration of the so-called military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, Cui Hongjian, a professor with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance with Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

These EU countries lack substantial reasons to engage in the South China Sea confrontations in the region, aside from using the excuse of protecting their economic interests. Instead, they are more focused on positioning themselves as a "balancing role" in regional issues, allowing themselves to alleviate pressure from the US while at the same time avoiding direct confrontation with China, Cui noted. 

China welcomes the EU to play a "constructive role" in promoting regional economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. However, China firmly opposes any actions that provoke regional tension and instability, Cui stressed. 

Matters between the Philippines and China should ideally be resolved through bilateral discussions between the two countries, and external countries should avoid interference, Chinese observers noted. 

In the speech, Manalo also laid stress on the "rules-based order" saying it is beneficial to guarantee equity and stability in the global commons.

When Manalo mentioned the "rules-based order," he was referring to the rules that are unilaterally interpreted by the US and the Philippines. These rules are based on the South China Sea Arbitration, a result that China does not accept nor recognize as it violated the principle of state consent and exercised its jurisdiction ultra vires and rendered an award in disregard of law, Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.