August 21, 2019
FOREIGN ships have to seek permission from the Philippine government before passing through the country’s territorial waters, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte issued the order amid reports of incursions by Chinese vessels.
“To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that, beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” Panelo said during a news conference.
“Either we get compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” he added.
Duterte’s directive came after a string of reports of Chinese warships and survey ships passing through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi without prior clearance.
The Sibutu Strait is an internationally recognized sealane, where foreign ships enjoy the right of innocent passage.
The chief of the Western Mindanao Command, however, argued that the recent Chinese incursions could not be classified as innocent passage because of the curved path they took.
When asked if the government would use military force to impose Duterte’s order, Panelo said: “If it will have to take that, we will do it.”
Panelo said authorities would stop these unannounced foreign vessels and tell the crew to “move out” of the territorial waters.
“We will ask them to move out of the place. That’s unfriendly,” the Palace official added.
“Because, before, we never said anything, we just allowed them and just make protests. But this time we will tell them please get out of our territory. That’s very unfriendly because we have not done it before,” he said.
Panelo added the government would invoke the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States if there is an armed aggression by a foreign country against the Philippines.
“If there is an armed aggression on the part of a foreign country against us, then we will be using that treaty. Only when there’s an armed aggression, when there’s any attack,” he said.
“Dati naman tayong hindi afraid eh. Kaya lang mapagbigay tayo eh. Friendly nga eh, friendly (We use to not be afraid. But we were so hospitable. Friendly, we’re friendly) But even between friends, there is a time to tell our friends not to do things not deemed to be an act of friendship,” the spokesman added.
Malacañang earlier maintained its stance that foreign ships passing through Philippine waters should inform Philippine authorities, as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Under the Unclos, foreign vessels may only cross a coastal state’s territorial waters without notifying the state if they are conducting “innocent passage.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had filed diplomatic protests over the presence of Chinese vessels in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, calling it “trespassing.”
Duterte is scheduled to visit China from August 28 to September 2 to discuss maritime issues with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The President earlier said he would finally raise Manila’s 2016 arbitral victory, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims to the South China (West Philippine) Sea, during his visit.
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