Govt urges countries to exercise restraint in South China Sea


Malacañang is urging nations to exercise restraint after China recently passed a law giving power to its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and demolish structures built in the South China Sea (SCS), also known as the West Philippine Sea.

In a press briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque called on nations, particularly claimants to the contested sea, not to escalate tensions as it could worsen the ongoing maritime dispute.

I hope countries would not to anything in relation to the West Philippine Sea issue which could make the situation worse,” he said in Filipino.

He reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to pass the Code of Conduct for the SCS.

The declaration of the President is to finish a code of conduct and that all claimants of the West Philippine Sea follow this code of conduct,” he added in Filipino.

In 2019, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China completed the first reading of the draft of the Code of Conduct that was announced at the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Singapore a year earlier.

The Code of Conduct is expected to be finalized by 2021 to resolve conflicts in the resource-rich waters of the SCS.

Meanwhile, Roque pointed out that all laws passed to safeguard a nation’s sovereignty will have to comply with their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

While countries have the power as a sovereign state to pass laws asserting territory, these laws have to follow obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea where China is a signatory,” he said.

Citing international law, he said the use of force is also prohibited except by way of self-defense or under the auspices of a United Nations Security Council authorization to use force.

China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress standing committee, passed the Coast Guard Law last Friday.

Under the draft bill, the coast guard is allowed to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels.

The bill allows coast guard personnel to demolish other countries’ structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China as well as create temporary exclusion zones “as needed” to stop other vessels and personnel from entering.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the law is in line with international practices.

China has long-standing SCS disputes with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its arbitration case filed against China when the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Beijing has “no legal basis” to claim historic rights over almost the entire SCS.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.