Counter-Coercion Series: Second Thomas Shoal Incident

In May 2013, China increased its presence near a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea. Chinese coast guard and other vessels were spotted only a few miles from Second Thomas Shoal. Since 1999, Philippine marines have occupied a dilapidated warship—the BRP Sierra Madre—atop this coral atoll in the disputed Spratly Islands. Manila’s foreign affairs department protested the onset of continuous Chinese patrols, calling them “provocative and illegal.” Other leaders acknowledged that Beijing could not be lawfully denied freedom of navigation around the reef, but still feared for the safety of Manila’s supply lines to its dilapidated garrison.

President Duterte’s Backtracking Prompts Hope for Compromise

Security analysts have questioned whether U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation can survive six years of a Philippine president seemingly driven by anti-Western ideology. Those fears should be somewhat allayed, as Duterte has walked back some of his earlier pronouncements and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has declared that the Philippine-U.S. security alliance will not be abrogated and that the EDCA will stay in place.