Amid increasingly aggressive posturing
from China over the South China Sea, American and Filipino armed forces flooded the hotly contested waters
last week in a joint military exercise.
The joint exercise included more than 12,000 U.S. personnel and some 5,400 Filipino forces, along with over a hundred Australian participants, and is being touted as the largest since the U.S. and the Philippines started the cooperative drills some 30 years ago.
In recent years, Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea has grown from belligerent to violent. In June 2018, Chinese coast guard harassed
Filipino fishermen who were catching fish in Scarborough Shoal, which is comfortably within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
by GMA Integrated News
showed that Chinese vessels swarmed the area around Scarborough, with one speedboat even approaching the Filipino boats to take their haul.
The incidents have only continued – if not escalated – since.
The U.S., alarmed by the prospect of losing its grip
over one of its staunchest Asian allies, has come to the Philippines’ aid, providing some USD 100 million
in military funding.
Positioning itself as a champion of human rights and democracy, the U.S. has also pointed to China’s several atrocities – including allegations of genocide
in Xinjiang and its disrespect of Taiwan’s sovereignty
– as further validation to keep the Asian superpower in check.
In September 2022, months after he won the Philippine elections in a landslide victory, Pres Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. met with his U.S. counterpart President Joe Biden during the United Nations General Assembly, where they discussed the mutual defense over the South China Sea, human rights, and the “deep” relationship between the two countries.
“The relationship between the United States and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots,” Pres. Biden said
during their meeting. “We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective.”
Marcos, Jr. is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose reign of power is marked by bloodshed, corruption, and widespread repression of human rights. Marcos, Jr. himself is hounded
by a similarly fraught background and is currently fielding a standing contempt judgement by a U.S. court in connection with the human rights abuses of his late father.