Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - CANBERRA, Feb 29 — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos told Australia’s parliament his country was on the “frontline” of a battle for regional peace Thursday — pledging resolve as he sought support in maritime disputes with China.

With Beijing’s warships detected in waters off his country’s coast, Marcos told Australian lawmakers that “the Philippines now finds itself on the frontline against actions that undermine regional peace, erode regional stability, and threaten regional success”.

He vowed to remain firm in defending his country’s sovereignty.

“I will not allow any attempt by any foreign power to take even one square inch of our sovereign territory,” Marcos said to loud applause.

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“The challenges that we face may be formidable, but equally formidable is our resolve. We will not yield.”

Philippines authorities this week said they detected Chinese navy vessels around the Scarborough Shoal — an area seized by Beijing in 2012.

China has claimed the shoal and swathes of the South China Sea as its own, ignoring regional objections and an international tribunal ruling that the claims have no legal basis.

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It has long deployed coast guard and other vessels around the Scarborough Shoal to prevent Philippine access.

But Marcos has called the deployment of warships a new and “worrisome” development.

The South China Sea is strategically vital for several countries, providing a key route for the import and export of essential fuel, food and other goods.

The Philippines and other countries — backed by the United States — have argued the waterway should be free and open.

China has rapidly grown its naval forces in recent years, and snatched vast tracts of maritime territory, hoping to project its military and political power well beyond the country’s shores.

“The protection of the South China Sea as a critical global artery is crucial to the preservation of regional peace. And I dare say of global peace” Marcos said. — AFP

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