Palace hopeful China won’t use force in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — Countries must abide by their obligations under international law, which generally prohibits the use of force, Malacañang said on Monday after China last week adopted a law that would allow its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.
The Philippines is also hopeful that no country will make a move that will heighten tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
He said that while a sovereign country has the power to approve laws to cover its territory, these have to conform with its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which China is a signatory.
“Under general international law, the use of force is generally prohibited except for two well-defined exceptions: by way of self-defense and there must be the sending of armed troops in the territory of China,” he said in a press briefing.
Roque also said the use of force should be “necessary and proportional and authorized by the UN Security Council.”
The law passed by China expressly allows its coast guard to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
But for Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., this was “none of our business.”
“It is China’s business what law it passes, so please a little self-restraint,” he said in a post on Twitter.
“I devised a visa rubber stamp that stamps most of the South China Sea and parts of North Borneo as our national territory and no one has complained,” he added.
One of Locsin’s predecessors, however, said the new law “[was] a sobering reminder to the world that China remains adamant in pressing its illegal claims in the South China Sea, now with force and probably with violence.”
“For Filipinos, this also reminds us that China’s plans to take over our waters and put our soldiers’ lives at risk will not go away despite the so-called friendly approach of the Duterte administration toward China,” former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.
He said the Philippines should prioritize building a credible defense posture for the country in the face of this new Chinese aggression.
He added that the Philippines should also strengthen its security alliance with freedom-loving nations like the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, and its Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors.
The Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague in July 2016, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
The ruling recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the government should guard against any attempt by China to use the vaccine deal as an opportunity to advance its interests and undermine the country’s stake in the West Philippine Sea.
“We must not allow China to shake our hand on vaccine procurement, but stab us in the back [in] the West Philippine Sea,” she added. —With reports from Melvin Gascon and Tina G. Santos INQ
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