MANILA — According to a top national Government official, the new Coast Guard law passed by Chinese legislators allowing the use of violent forces against foreign vessels that may venture inside its perceived territory in the South China Sea could lead to bitter misunderstanding even as it also raises the risk of miscalculations and may cause maritime accidents.
According to Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, China’s new maritime law poses a point of deep concern as it appears to favor the Chinese military over the rights of others and seemingly disregards the international ruling on “freedom of navigation.”
“I’m very concerned about this law because it might cause miscalculations and accidents there, especially now that they are now allowed to fire at foreign vessels,” Lorenzana says in an interview.
The China Coast Guard, he adds, operates in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, part of the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea, where the Philippine navy and coast guard also patrol.
“The chances of accident or miscalculation (are) great, and so I call upon all claimants there, Chinese, Vietnamese to exercise caution and carefulness in implementing their laws,” the defense chief noted.
However, even with a diplomatic overture in mind, Lorenzana disclosed that the Philippine government will certainly discuss the issue with its allies, including the United States, and other claimants in the disputed region in order to formulate a possible guideline in how to handle the situation.
“But the Americans, even without consulting us or other claimants, continue on patrolling the area,” Lorenzana points out.
“I’m sure that the Chinese are also concerned about these patrols in like manner that the Americans are very concerned about the creeping influence of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea,” he says.
More countries outside the region, like the United Kingdom, Australia and India, are also planning to patrol the disputed waters to carry out “freedom of navigation” operations and recently, a French nuclear attack submarine sailed near territories claimed by Beijing.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana revealed that the Philippine government would continue engaging with the third parties “to find ways to move forward” and defuse whatever tension is stemming from China’s new Coast Guard law.
In January the current year, Manila filed a diplomatic protest against the new Chinese law, which was seen as “a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law which, if unchallenged, could mean submission to it.”
The Chinese embassy in Manila, however, jeered at the expressions of concern, saying the new law was part of “normal legislative activity of China” and does not target any country. (BM/Headline PH)