PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte should certify as urgent the passage of a bill that will designate areas in the South China Sea where foreign vessels can pass through, a Supreme Court magistrate said.
Justice Antonio T. Carpio said Congress should hasten the approval of the Archipelagic Sea Lanes Passage bill.
“The law can require foreign ships exercising the right to archipelagic sea lane passage to turn on their automatic identification system and for submarines to surface and show their flag,” the magistrate said. The bill, he added, has been pending in Congress for years.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state cannot require foreign vessels to have prior notification before their passage, Mr. Carpio said.
“We should make clear to our people, and to the world, that the West Philippine Sea refers to waters in the South China Sea over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction,” he said, referring to parts of the main waterway within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines will “shoo away” unauthorized foreign vessels including Chinese warships that pass through its waters and use military force if necessary, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said this week.
He said Chinese warships have repeatedly entered Philippine waters without notifying authorities, in violation of international law.
“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” he said earlier.
The Armed Forces has said at least five Chinese warships had passed through the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines without notice.
Mr. Panelo said Mr. Duterte must decide whether to bring up the matter to Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits Beijing later this month.
He said earlier Mr. Duterte was planning to invoke the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations arbitral court in The Hague that voided China’s claims with Taiwan to more than 80% of the South China Sea.
China rejected the decision of the international court, which has failed to halt its island-building activities in areas also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Also yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Thursday said countries should respect international law, including those covering the sea.
Many states refuse to recognize or carry out “judicial or arbitral awards they lost fairly and legally,” he said in a speech.
Mr. Locsin has threatened to fire off diplomatic protests against China after the military said five Chinese warships had been spotted off Sibutu Strait. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Charmaine A. Tadalan