China-Philippines near full diplomatic collapse at sea – Asia Times

China-Philippines near full diplomatic collapse at sea - Asia Times

With the seemingly deterioration of Philippine-China communication programmes amid conflicting records of diplomatic negotiations aimed at preventing an armed conflict, escalating problems in the South China Sea are about to break out.

The administration of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has absolutely refuted China’s claims that the two countries had reportedly agreed to de-escalation measures in contested sea territories.

China’s embassy in Manila claimed earlier that the original Rodrigo Duterte management and the two factors had a “gentleman’s deal” over the tumultuous Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines sits de facto atop the BRP Sierra Madre vehicle.

Beijing has claimed in recent months that it has negotiated a “new type” with Spanish rivals to resolve disputes over the Scarborough Shoal, which has been under Chinese power since 2012 after a month-long marine conflict.

Nearby major Philippine bases at Subic and Clark, which have recently been the site of significant drills with America and other Western allies, is located just over 100 nautical miles from the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which is located close to the Philippines ‘ exclusive economic zone ( EEZ ).

In response, Philippine National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, arguably the most influential safety standard in Marcos Jr’s case, has accused China of spreading “fake information” and “disinformation”. He has referred to China’s says as “pathetic despair”.

China has threatened to release audio tapes of alleged personal negotiations, a contentious move that could cause the political channels to completely collapse at a dangerous time in South China Sea conflicts.

China claimed earlier this year that it had a “gentleman’s contract” with then-president Duterte, who reportedly promised to reduce Spanish resupply operations to the Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines allegedly promised not to use concrete, metal, and other construction materials to protect its de facto military installations in the disputed maritime area under the alleged agreement.

The current president of the Philippines criticized the alleged agreement and declared he had “rescind” any contract that would violate his nation’s standing and authority in the disputing waters.

The Philippine Congress has opened an investigation to find out if the former federal was involved in any traitorous works in light of Duterte and his top officials ‘ refusal to provide any details about the alleged package.

However, a dispute over the Scarborough Shoal last month has rekindled long-standing tensions over another significant battlefield in diplomatic relations. According to Philippine government, Chinese troops engaged in “dangerous tactics and blockage” of Spanish guards in the area.


Chinese forces reportedly used liquid cannons against Spanish ships in a manner similar to current incidents in the Second Thomas Shoal, where the Spanish Navy and the Foreign Coast Guard have been at odds with one another.

According to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official Jay Tarriela&nbsp, who provided video of the most recent affair,” This destruction serves as evidence of the violent waters pressure used by the China Coast Guard in their harassment of the Spanish vessels.”

On April 30, China acknowledged it had “expelled” arteries from the area. A 380-meter-long challenge has also been reinstalled in China to prevent access to the reef.

China has essentially ruled the disputed shoal following a marine standoff in 2012 that was caused by a Spanish Navy warship’s attempt to apprehend Foreign fishermen.

Due to its extreme closeness to crucial Spanish system, subsequent Spanish governments, supported by their mutual security treaty ally the US, have warned China against recovering and establishing military installations on the shoal.

In a public forum in the middle of 2017, former Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana acknowledged that the Chinese had a plan to reclaim Scarborough Shoal in June. In fact, the Americans reported that there were barges carrying construction materials and soil to Scarborough, but I believe they told the Chinese to” Do n’t do it.” For some reason, the Chinese stopped”.

The president also stated that this is the “red line” in the US, and that is also true. Once the Chinese start exploring and putting rigs, we will talk to them”, he added, emphasizing Manila’s stiff opposition even from the then- Beijing- friendly Duterte administration.

Important Philippine bases in Subic and Clark would be harmed by a Chinese military base on the Scarborough Shoal, both for Washington and Manila. Additionally, any deployment of a Chinese missile system would directly threaten Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and other important industrialized areas in northern Luzon. &nbsp,

The Philippines made it clear over the years that any unilateral reclamation or energy exploration activities by China would cross a “red line” despite its then-warming ties to Beijing.

There were “temporary special arrangements” that only gave the Philippines limited access to its artisanal fishermen in exchange for not reclaiming and militarizing the Scarborough Shoal, as claimed China.

Filipino fishermen are permitted to fish with small fishing boats in designated waters, aside from the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, while the AFP, PCG, and other Philippine government aircraft should not enter the 12 nautical miles and corresponding airspace of &nbsp, the shoal,” according to a spokesman for the Chinese embassy. &nbsp,

The Philippine side has adhered to the above agreements for the past seven plus years, and fishing in certain areas off [Scarborough Shoal ] was unaffected, the spokesperson said, directly blaming the country for the recent rise in tensions.

The current Philippine administration, who sent its coast guard ships and official vessels a number of times to [Scarborough Shoal ] and encouraged the Filipino fishermen to challenge the arrangements, unilaterally scuppered, he continued.

Any such “temporary arrangement” would have effectively ceded Manila’s claim over the resource-rich and geographically important shoal, so the Philippine authorities have categorically rejected China’s claim. Additionally, they have rejected the negotiation of the ostensible “new model” to deal with the Second Thomas Shoal conflict.

A Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel is sprayed with water by a Chinese Coast Guard ship close to Scarborough Shoal on December 9, 2023. Image: Philippine Coast Guard

According to Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela, who categorically rejects any compromise over the shoal, “let us not be influenced by their fabricated stories once more, which aim to confuse the Filipino people and deflect attention from the actual issue of their harassment and provocative actions in Bajo De Masinloc.” &nbsp,

The President of the Republic of the Philippines has also stated that “only the President of the Republic of the Philippines can approve or authorize agreements made by the Philippine government on matters relating to the South China Sea.”

No Cabinet-level Marcos administration official has “accepted any Chinese proposal,” according to DFA, regarding the disputed shoals.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who recently held a” Squad” meeting with his counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan in Hawaii, accused China of spreading disinformation in order to sow confusion and undermine Manila’s strategic position.

It is curious that it comes right after the Department of National Defense’s actions were condemned at the most recent Squad meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, Teodoro said, reflecting the nearly collapse of bilateral diplomatic channels.

Follow Richard Javad Heydarian on X at @Richeydarian