The Philippines is set to implement a multi-dimensional package of countermeasures in response to China's conduct in the South China Sea, which will involve strengthening its defense capabilities with allies and exhausting all diplomatic efforts to resolve disputes, according to National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya. The move comes as tensions escalate between the two countries over competing claims in the contested waters.

In a televised address, Malaya stated that the "proportionate, deliberate and reasonable response" ordered by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last week would encompass not only military and defense aspects but also diplomatic efforts to address the issue. The announcement follows a series of run-ins between the Philippines and China at sea over the past year, coinciding with Manila's increased defense engagements with ally and former colonial power, the United States.

The latest flare-up occurred on March 24, when China used water cannon to disrupt a Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal for soldiers guarding a warship intentionally grounded on a reef 25 years ago. The incident sparked a war of words between defense officials, with China accusing the Philippines of provocations, misinformation, and treachery, while the Philippines responded by accusing China of being patronizing and intimidating smaller countries.

In a significant move to counter China's growing influence in the region, the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines are planning to launch joint naval patrols in the South China Sea later this year, according to a U.S. official and a foreign diplomat familiar with the planning. The three-country naval maneuvers, which will be unveiled at the first-ever trilateral summit between the leaders of the three nations next month, are expected to elicit a strong response from Beijing.

The joint patrols will mark the first time Japan's navy has joined forces with the U.S. and the Philippines in the region, reflecting Tokyo's growing role in regional security alongside Washington. The move is part of the Biden administration's Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aims to rally allies and partners to offset China's increasing economic, diplomatic, and military footprint in the region.

The trilateral summit, scheduled for April 11, is seen as crucial in cementing efforts by the three countries to counter China's regional influence. In addition to the joint naval patrols, the White House is also expected to announce that it will "seriously consider" having Japan as a technological partner in elements of the "AUKUS" security partnership between the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

The joint operations, however, raise the risk of potential confrontations with Chinese forces operating in the region. Beijing has already ignored repeated warnings from the Biden administration that the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty obligates the U.S. to intervene if Philippine forces come under armed attack.

In response to the Philippines' planned countermeasures, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian stated on Monday that Chinese forces "will continue to take resolute steps to safeguard its territorial interests." Another Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, asserted that regardless of the policies the Philippines rolls out, they cannot affect China's sovereignty and maritime rights.