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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr Orders Strengthening of Maritime Security Amid Escalating Dispute

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has issued an order directing his government to enhance coordination on maritime security to address “a range of serious challenges” to territorial integrity and peace, as tensions escalate in a dispute with China.

The directive, signed on Monday and disclosed on Sunday, does not explicitly mention China but comes in the wake of a series of bilateral maritime incidents and mutual allegations regarding a contested area in the South China Sea.

China asserts sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, a vital route for over $3 trillion in annual maritime trade. These claims intersect with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s claims lacked a legal basis.

The most recent escalation occurred over the weekend when China utilized water cannon to disrupt a Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal, where soldiers are stationed aboard a warship deliberately grounded on a reef 25 years ago.

“In spite of efforts to foster stability and security in our maritime domain, the Philippines continues to face a variety of serious challenges that not only jeopardize territorial integrity but also the peaceful existence of Filipinos,” stated Marcos in the directive.

Earlier, the president pledged to enact countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and hazardous attacks” by China’s coastguard.

The directive expands and restructures the government’s maritime council, incorporating the national security adviser, solicitor general, chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the South China Sea task force.

It appears to broaden the military’s role by involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in addition to the navy, among the agencies supporting the council.

The newly renamed National Maritime Council will serve as the central body for formulating strategies to establish a “unified, coordinated, and effective” framework for the maritime security and domain awareness of the Philippines.

Marcos has augmented the number of agencies supporting the council from nine to thirteen, including the space agency and the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

Source: Reuters

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