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The Philippines will not cede “an iota of ground”, the country’s President Ferdinand Marcos said at a military graduation ceremony, amid tensions with China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Referring to “increased geopolitical tensions that are inconsistent with our ideals of peace, and threaten the security and stability of the country, the (wider) region and the world”, President Marcos underlined that “this country will not lose either part of its territory. We will continue to defend our territorial integrity and sovereignty, in accordance with the constitution and international law. We will work with our neighbors to guarantee the safety of our peoples.”

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On Tuesday, President Marcos summoned China’s ambassador to express his “serious concern” over Beijing’s provocations against the Philippine coast guard and Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea.

At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs went on a protest march over the incident involving a Chinese Coast Guard ship which allegedly “blinded” with a laser the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard vessel carrying out a mission to supply soldiers.

The episode, which came just a month after the Philippine president’s official visit to Beijing, brought competing claims in the South China Sea back to the fore.

China has claims to most of the strategically important sea route, but the International Court of Justice in The Hague rejected them as groundless in 2016.