THE PHILIPPINES and other nations should question China’s recent law allowing its maritime forces to fire at foreign vessels in the South China Sea,   including those in disputed waters, according to a retired Supreme Court senior associate justice.   

China’s coast guard law is a “grave threat” to the continuance of the law of the sea and to world peace, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio said during a webinar of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.  

“The coast guard law violates international law because it allows China to use force in waters beyond its jurisdiction. The world must seek the invalidation of China’s new coast guard law before relevant international tribunals,” Mr. Carpio said.   

Mr. Carpio also cited the declining reserves in the country’s Malampaya gas field situated in Palawan — which accounts for 20% of the country’s total electricity needs — as one of the reasons why actions should be taken against China’s coast guard law.   

He said the Philippines will have to make a move to get the gas reserves in Reed Bank located within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  

He cited that neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia are also looking to explore and exploit gas reserves within their respective EEZs.    

“In the next two to five years, there will be a situation where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia will be exploring for gas or oil within the nine-dash line claim of China. As a result, China will have to decide whether to enforce its coast guard law or not,” Mr. Carpio said.   

“I think there will be an incident because even in the absence of a coast guard law, we already have standoffs. Before that incident arises, let’s find a way to question the coast guard law of China before an international tribunal to strengthen our position,” he added.    

A ruling in 2016 rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on its nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map. China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling and has intensified presence in disputed areas.   

The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests against the incursions. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave