An Overview on Philippines-China Relations and Their Island Dispute

The relations between China and the Philippines has been a topic of interest for decades and most recently, there has been increasing tension regarding the territorial dispute over the South China Sea. The claim to the South China Sea has never been officially addressed or resolved and as a result, the Philippines and China, as well as other neighboring nations including Vietnam and Malaysia, feel as though they should claim ownership to the islands located within it as well as the surrounding territory.

Source//Nikkei Asian Review

Photographs and evidence have confirmed both China’s move towards militarization in the area, most notably addressing the islands located in the South Asia Sea that were artificially-crafted for military defense. 

Source//Daily Mail

In addition to underlying tensions and previous disputes, the United States and Trump’s recent engagement has only furthered controversy and publicity. More recently, the United States has become progressively more involved in the countries dispute and as per the Mutual Defense Treaty, which was signed in 1951 between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, is supporting the Philippines. The Mutual Defense Treaty has been in place for almost 68 years and is set to be reviewed by both nations parties to ensure that all articles are relevant to their current state. Additionally, the Philippine government has often noted that much of the Treaty is vague regarding any territorial disputes and they hope that this review will clarify such sections.  


With the United States becoming progressively more entangled in this dispute, foreigners are starting to pay more attention to the issue as its news coverage grows. While many nations have territorial claims in the water, China has staked claim to over 80% of the South China Sea. This ownership has only increased China’s trading power as the South China Sea carries nearly 3.4 trillion USD in global trade per year.

Source//VOA News

Despite these claims, the United States, in an attempt to exercise their right to travel both in and over the South China Sea, has sailed multiples warships and conducted flyovers over the contested area. While the South China Sea is largely considered to be marked as international waters due to its abundance of trade routes, the Chinese government accused the United States of trespassing on China’s territorial waters and following these actions, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry, Lu Kang, released a statement saying that the United States’ advances “violated the Chinese laws and international laws, infringed China's sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order".


As the problem continues to unfold, possibilities of joint development agreements between China and the Philippines have been discussed with the intention that said agreements would present both nations with mutually beneficial options, helping to maintain ties between the two Republics as well relieve tension and prevent any further threats regarding war from arising. While a conclusion has not been reached yet, the past 6 months have brought about many developments within this issue and it is evident that both parties are committed to finding a solution.