Philippines says China sea dispute does not implement US defense deal

Footage released by Manila showed Chinese coast guard sailors brandishing knives, axes and other weapons during Monday’s confrontation, in which a Filipino sailor lost a thumb, as they stopped the Philippine Navy from resupplying a Philippine navy ship on board a wrecked warship.

„We are not yet ready to consider this an armed attack,” Lucas Bersamin, executive secretary to President Ferdinand Marcos, said when asked by reporters if Manila would ask Washington to honor the 1951 agreement.

The clashes are the latest in a series of escalating clashes as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to the disputed territory.

The US-Philippines mutual defense agreement requires both sides to come to the defense in the event of an „armed attack” against ships, aircraft, troops and coast guards in the Pacific theater, which Washington says includes the South China Sea.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo on Wednesday about China’s recent „escalating actions,” the State Department said in a statement.

Blinken said China’s actions „undermine regional peace and stability and underscore the ironclad commitments of the United States to the Philippines under our mutual defense treaty.”

The equipment was destroyed

A Filipino sailor lost a thumb when a small Chinese boat collided with a Philippine Navy inflatable boat.

The Philippine military said the Chinese coast guard confiscated or destroyed Philippine equipment, including guns and inflatable boats.

Beijing insisted its coast guard had acted in a „professional and controlled” way and blamed Manila for the standoff, accusing the Philippines of „trying to ambush construction materials but smuggle military equipment to a remote garrison”.

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The warship Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded on the second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert Manila’s territorial claims.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, ignoring competing claims by several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, and an international ruling that its position has no legal basis.

The second Thomas Shoal is located about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest mainland, Hainan Island.

China deploys its coast guard and other boats to patrol the coast and has turned many shoals into artificial militarized islands.

Monday’s standoff has heightened fears that China will try to climb into the Sierra Madre and force out Philippine troops.

„It’s always worth considering and we’ll be ready for it,” retired Philippine general Andres Centeno, now presidential adviser on maritime concerns, told reporters on Friday.

However, Bersamin, Marcos’ executive secretary, downplayed the conflict.

„It was either a misunderstanding or an accident,” he said, adding that the Chinese side had not used bladed weapons „beyond”.

„I think this is something we can resolve very soon, and if China wants to work with us we can work with China.”

He said the government’s advisory National Maritime Council convened after the conflict and suggested to the president that Manila release the schedule of its redistribution work to the Sierra Madre in advance, hoping that China would act with more restraint.

Manila would not „give anything away” by taking such a stance, he said.

Marcos has yet to approve the proposal, Bersamin and Centino said.

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