The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China over its law authorizing its coast guard to shoot foreign vessels in areas it claims in the disputed South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Wednesday.
She noted that ASEAN countries should reach a consensus and take multilateral action to stop China’s incessant adventurism.
The Chinese game plan is to isolate and divide the countries around it so it can deal with them individually through bilateral talks, maximizing its relative advantage in resources and power against any one of its neighbors, Hontiveros said.Earlier, the senator cautioned about China’s new law, urging the Department of Defense (DND) to immediately create a strategy for situations where the Chinese coast guard uses force in contested waters.She said the new law also endangers Filipino fishermen and could keep them from fishing in disputed waters.“This is the arrogance of a country that still considers itself the Middle Kingdom and an empire,” she said.The head of a Philippine fishers’ association called the new law “a virtual declaration of war” while a security analyst said it would stoke “hatred of China” among Filipinos.The legislation “contradicts the principle of freedom of navigation recognized by international maritime law”, said Fernando Hicap, chairman of Pamalakaya, a federation of fishers’ organizations.Defense analyst Chester Cabalza, a fellow at the National Defense University in Beijing and the United States State Department, said the law was a “game-changer” because it turned a “white” force meant for policing, search, and rescue into a menacing “grey” arm of the military.“The white ships of the coast guard symbolize maximum tolerance at all times to protect civilians and merchants at sea,” he said, while grey ships are “symbols of antagonism and war”.In his statement, Hicap pointed out that this now meant the “Chinese coast guard can just shoot anyone, armed or unarmed, in territorial waters that they illegally claim.”“This is a serious threat to Filipino fishers … in our very own territorial waters,” he added.In its bid to strengthen its massive claim over the nearly the entire South China Sea, China has expanded its presence in the resource-rich waterways, transforming several former reefs into artificial islands with military facilities, runways, and surface to air missiles.China’s new law that was passed last week is expected to trigger tensions anew in the waters where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have overlapping claims.In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 invalidated China’s massive claims over the SCS as it upheld the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at the West Philippine Sea.The arbitral tribunal ruled that Beijing’s claim violated Manila’s economic and sovereign rights under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.However, China refuses to recognize a landmark arbitration award that invalidates it.Last year, President Duterte urged claimants to follow the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.Paragraph 5 of the declaration states, “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines and 3 other South China Sea claimants, are currently negotiating for a more binding Code of Conduct in the contested waters.
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