(Bloomberg) -- Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the nation would not resort to force or intimidation but “stands firm” amid clashes near islands in the South China Sea that are at the center of a territorial dispute with China.

“We are not in the business to instigate wars,” Marcos on Sunday told soldiers at the Western Command in Palawan province, the closest Philippine landmass to the contested Spratly Islands. “In defending the nation, we stay true to our Filipino nature that we would like to settle all these issues peacefully.” 

On June 17, China Coast Guard officials boarded Philippine rubber boats that were on a resupply mission to a military outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal. Manila accused the Chinese authorities of seizing guns, puncturing boats and ramming vessels, which led to a Filipino losing his thumb. Beijing has maintained its actions were professional and lawful. 

The Philippines will continue to exercise its freedom and rights in accordance with international law, said Marcos, who awarded medals to those who joined the resupply mission. “As we award these medals, we remember that on June 17th, we made a conscious and deliberate choice to remain in the path of peace,” he said.

WATCH: Why the South China Sea Could Spark a US-China War

Philippines’ Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Friday said the clash with China isn’t an “armed attack” that could trigger a defense treaty with the US. The Southeast Asian nation is set to announce ahead of time when it will resupply the Second Thomas Shoal outpost, according to Bersamin.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.