Chinese authorities’ reported plan to board and search ships that “illegally” enter the South China Sea, which includes the West Philippine Sea, is a “direct threat” to all countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.
“If media reports are accurate, this planned action by China is illegal and will validate… pronouncements by the Philippines that China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries,” the DFA said in a statement.
Quoting from the official China Daily, Reuters earlier reported that a new rule, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, will allow police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize control of foreign ships that “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing.
“If media reports are accurate, then China’s planned action will be a gross violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), international law, particularly UNCLOS, and a direct threat to the entire international community as it violates not only the maritime domain of coastal states established under UNCLOS, but also impedes the fundamental freedom of navigation and lawful commerce,” DFA said.
Apart from Philippines and China, other countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia claim various parts of the South China Sea as part of their territories.
Earlier, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan noted that China’s plan will escalate tension in the region.
“My reaction is (this is) certainly an escalation of the tension that has already been building. And it is a very serious turn of events,” he said.
On December 12, South China Sea claimants – excluding China – will hold a meeting in Manila discussing “viable options to move the issue forward” and find a “peaceful resolution” to the unresolved territorial row in the disputed seas.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia are set to attend the meeting, which will be hosted by the Philippines.
Manila and Beijing’s standoff began in April after Chinese vessels were caught poaching in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Before Filipino authorities can make arrests, Chinese ships blocked their path. — Rouchelle R. Dinglasan /LBG, GMA News