Marcos: China’s new rule vs trespassers ‘unacceptable’

Marcos: China’s new rule vs trespassers ‘unacceptable’

THIS IS OURS Retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (center) said China’s new coast guard rules against foreigners suspected of illegally crossing its borders violate the UN Charter in threatening to use force to settle its maritime disputes with other countries. China also cannot arbitrarily set is maritime borders, he said. —Marianne Bermudez

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday said China’s new policy of detaining foreign nationals crossing its supposed borders amid its maritime disputes with the Philippines was “completely unacceptable.”

Marcos firmly rejected the new regulations allowing the China Coast Guard (CCG) to detain without trial foreigners and to seize foreign ships suspected of trespassing.

“That kind of action would be completely unacceptable to the Philippines,” he told reporters in an interview in Makati City. “The position we take is that it is unacceptable and we will take whatever measures to always protect our citizens.”

READ: China Coast Guard: We can detain trespassers

The President declined to discuss “operational details” but assured Filipinos that they would be protected within the country’s borders.

Defying Unclos

He made the remarks when asked to respond to the recently reported CCG maritime law enforcement procedures.

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the Senate leader and other lawmakers said China’s new regulations would defy the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and the UN Charter with its threats to arrest foreigners sailing even in the high seas of the South China Sea.

“I’m calling on the Chinese government not to do this because it will be dangerous for all,” Senate President Miguel Zubiri said in an interview with dwIZ radio.

“This will worsen the tension in the region because it will also affect not just the Philippines, but other claimants, including Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam,” he added.

China’s Embassy in Manila on Friday gave reporters a Chinese-language copy of the 92-page document called “Provisions on Administrative Law Enforcement Procedures of Coast Guard Agencies,” which said that the regulations would take effect on June 15.

Unclos violation

The CCG was authorized to detain for up to 60 days without trial “foreigners suspected of violating entry and exit control” in “waters under the jurisdiction of our country,” according to a reading of the document by a translator tool.

Beijing has sweeping claims to nearly the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where an estimated $3.37-trillion worth of world trade passes annually.

It refuses to recognize the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision invalidating its nine-dash-line claims while upholding the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

“China’s new coast guard regulation is subjecting the high seas of the South China Sea to China’s sovereignty in clear violation of Unclos,” Carpio told the Inquirer.

“Under Unclos, no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty,” he said. “The new Chinese coast guard regulation is clearly contrary to Unclos and to the UN Charter.”

Carpio, the leading legal voice in the country’s fight for sole control of its EEZ, said China clearly disregarded the UN Charter in threatening to “use force in settling its maritime disputes.”

“The Philippines should invite the US, UK, France, Japan, Australia and other coastal states all over the world to jointly or individually sail in the high seas and EEZs of the South China Sea to strongly register their objection to this new Chinese coast guard regulation,” he said.

Conform to int’l laws

According to Carpio, China cannot arbitrarily set its own sea borders, which should conform with existing international laws, particularly Unclos.

Sea borders should be within a country’s 22-km territorial sea and its EEZ, which are both measured from baselines from its coast, he said.

In China’s case, the baseline should be “from the mainland or a habitable island.”

“The only habitable island of China is Hainan. So (the sea borders are) measured from Hainan,” he explained.

Not just PH EEZ

China claimed it had jurisdiction over Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) to justify the CCG’s powerful water cannon attacks against two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels that “intruded” into its “territorial waters” on May 1.

By imposing the new regulations, Carpio said, the CCG may detain and expel foreign vessels that enter even the EEZs of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, which were all included in China’s expansive claims, now demarcated by its new 10-dash line.

“China has no jurisdiction over the EEZ of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei or Indonesia. Thus, China’s new coast guard regulation cannot apply in the EEZs of other coastal states,” Carpio said.

Zubiri said that the Unclos, of which China is a signatory, clearly declared that there should be freedom of navigation in the high seas.

Cargo ships and fishing vessels should be allowed to freely cross the South China Sea and gain open access to the Indo-Pacific region without the threat of being arrested by any country, he added.

Clear violation

Should China insist on implementing its new regulation, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel might end up being held illegally by their Chinese counterparts.

“That is a clear violation of our sovereignty and that could trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty [with the United States],” Zubiri warned.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chair of the Senate national defense committee, reminded China to abide by existing international treaties to maintain regional peace and order.

He urged all state parties to “exercise restraint and seek peaceful solutions” to their overlapping maritime claims.

“While we respect China’s right to safeguard its territorial interests, we also emphasize the importance of adhering to international norms and agreements,” Estrada said.

For his part, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian reiterated that the waters within the country’s EEZ were no longer disputed as declared by the arbitral ruling.

“They have no right to detain anyone who is in our exclusive economic zone. That is not their territory,” Gatchalian said.

Speaker Martin Romualdez said the House “will not tolerate” any arrest of Filipinos within the country’s EEZ.“We will fiercely defend our sovereignty and ensure the safety and rights of our people,” he said in a statement.

These “aggressive pronouncements” by China are a “blatant escalation” of the tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Romualdez said.

Manila Rep. Joel Chua said it was time to hold China accountable for its many violations of Philippine sovereignty.

This could be done with a writ of kalikasan case against Beijing for the alleged destruction it wrought by dumping dead corals on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc.

Naval patrols

He added that there was also enough evidence to warrant the filing of various maritime law enforcement and disruption of freedom of navigation cases against China.

Bukidnon Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores said the Philippines should conduct naval patrols with other countries in international waters beyond the country’s territorial seas.

“We need the multinational patrols because we do not have enough ships to protect our waters,” Flores said, likening the patrols to those in the Red Sea and Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

The civilian “Atin Ito” Coalition, which led a convoy of fishing boats to distribute food and fuel to fishermen in the West Philippine Sea and in waters close to Panatag last week, said the new CCG regulation was another “desperate move” by Beijing.


“China’s threats on so-called trespassers in the West Philippine Sea are a clear indication of their desperation,” Akbayan president and “Atin Ito” coconvenor Rafaela David said in a statement on Saturday. “It is China which is trespassing in our seas.”

During the voyage, two CCG vessels shadowed and tried to intimidate the convoy. A Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy and another CCG vessel also shadowed the flotilla of four fishing boats.

Marcos also said that it was hard for him to make assumptions about the alleged recorded phone conversation between a Chinese diplomat and former Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos on a “new model” to diffuse tension at Ayungin Shoal “until we know that the thing actually exists.”

A transcript of the recording published by a local newspaper showed that Carlos twice confirmed that his superiors agreed to the Ayungin arrangement. Security officials dismissed the audio recording as the product of a “deepfake” operation.

Marcos said that he was “very conscious” of the risks in cybersecurity and the possibility of wiretapping following the alleged audio recording. —with reports from Krixia Subingsubing and Nestor Corrales