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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has stepped up efforts to push back against Chinese incursions, lodging 52 protests against Beijing over disputes in the South China Sea.
The diplomatic protests have been filed over what the Philippines called China’s “illegal presence” in the South China Sea, where China has conducted maritime scientific research, Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Teresita Daza said, according to reporting from Bloomberg.
The 52 diplomatic protests filed in the two months since Marcos Jr. took office set a blistering pace compared to his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who filed 388 such protests against China during his six years in power.
The protests come despite Marcos Jr. having pledged to soften relations with China amid the countries’ dispute over the resource-rich South China Sea, which also serves as a key shipping lane for international trade. The Philippine government has expressed openness to a compromise on Chinese oil and gas exploration in the region, though Marcos Jr. made clear his country would not cede any territory to China.
The Philippine leader has also pledged to maintain the country’s military alliance with the U.S.
Marcos Jr., who took over as president on June 30, is the son of longtime Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who led the country from 1965 until 1986. The elder Marcos, who died in 1989, was ousted from power in 1986 amid a pro-democracy uprising in the country, with Marcos Sr. facing accusation of human rights abuses.
But Marcos Jr. has defended his father’s legacy, denying claims the elder Marcos was a dictator.
“How many times have I been here in this room where he was in consultation with different groups?” Marcos Jr. said during an interview at the presidential palace Wednesday, according to ABC. “A dictator does not consult. A dictator just says, ‘This is what you will do, whether you like it or not.'”