The Philippines’ Dilemma: Managing Tensions in the South China Sea

The Philippines’ Dilemma: Managing Tensions in the South China Sea

The Philippines’ Dilemma: Managing Tensions in the South China Sea


The maritime dispute between China and the Philippines revolves around competing claims to land features and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. Other claimant states, including Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, are also involved. The Philippines’ claim focuses on the Spratly Islands and the surrounding maritime space, including Scarborough Shoal.

Key Points:

  1. Geopolitical Competition: Tensions between Manila and Beijing are rising due to China’s assertiveness and increasing Sino-U.S. competition. The South China Sea dispute is now linked to broader geopolitical dynamics.
  2. Risk of Escalation: While armed conflict involving the Philippines is unlikely, incidents at sea could escalate. The risk of misunderstandings remains high.
  3. Economic Impact:
  4. President Duterte’s Approach: President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued economic benefits from China while avoiding direct confrontation over territorial sovereignty. However, the long-term impact of this pragmatic approach remains uncertain.


  1. Code of Conduct: The Philippines should advocate for a substantive and effective Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China to manage maritime tensions.
  2. Bilateral Talks: Continue engaging in bilateral talks with Beijing to prevent misunderstandings and reduce risks.
  3. Regional Cooperation: Foster cooperation on shared concerns, such as fisheries management and law enforcement.

In summary, while the Philippines seeks economic benefits, it must navigate the delicate balance between managing tensions and safeguarding its interests in the South China Sea

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