Philippines says it will assert South China Sea rights

Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

WASHINGTON: The Philippines is determined to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, its foreign secretary said on Friday at a meeting with US allies to show support for Manila over an increasingly fraught standoff with China in the strategic waterway.

Speaking at the US State Department, Enrique Manalo accused China of “escalation of its harassment” of the Philippines, while US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington stood with Manila against what he described as “coercion.”

Recent maritime run-ins between China and the Philippines, a US treaty ally, have made the highly strategic South China Sea a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.

The officials spoke at a meeting between US and Philippines defence and foreign secretaries and their national security advisers, a day after leaders of the US, Japan and the Philippines met at the White House to push back against Beijing’s increased pressure on Manila.

“We are determined to assert our sovereign rights, especially within our economic - exclusive economic zone,” Manalo said.

He said he hoped Friday’s meeting would allow Washington and the Philippines to better coordinate their responses on the diplomatic and defense and security fronts.

Austin said the US commitment to its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines was “ironclad”.