Palace on China's new Coast Guard Law: Follow code of conduct, use of force prohibited

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) — Malacañang called on China to refrain from resorting to the use of force on foreign vessels entering contested waters, a move that could potentially worsen tension among claimants of disputed territories under China's new Coast Guard Law.

During his briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that China, along with other sovereign states, has to follow the South China Sea Code of Conduct and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Iyang mga batas pong ‘yan ay kinakailangan sumunod pa rin sa mga obligasyon sang-ayon sa UN Convention on the Law of The Sea kung saan kasapi po ang Tsina (Such laws would have to be in accordance with their obligations to the UNCLOS in which China is also a member)," he said.

Roque noted that resorting to violence is "generally prohibited," and should only be done when "necessary, proportional, and when authorized by the UN Security Council."

Last week, Beijing passed a new law that authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels entering disputed territories.The Coast Guard Law, which takes effect February 1, also allows the coast guard to demolish foreign structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and islands and for it to set up exclusion zones to keep foreign vessels out.

READ: China flies warplanes close to Taiwan in early test of Biden

"Sana po walang gagawin ang kahit anong bansa sa usapin ng West Philippine Sea na lalong magpapalala pa ng sitwasyon," Roque said.

[Translation: We hope that countries involved in the issue of the West Philippine Sea will not do anything that will worsen the situation.]

The UNCLOS serves as an international treaty established to define coastal and maritime boundaries and regulate seabed exploration outside territorial claims. The arbitral tribunal that ruled on the Philippines' case against China on the West Philippine Sea was created under a provision of UNCLOS, with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague serving as registry.

Senator Richard Gordon, in a Senate session on Tuesday, said China should explain its recent actions.

"China owes us an explanation as to what its true intentions are, whether they are really a peaceful and friendly neighbor, or they'll change their coat into a coat of armor that can become more aggressive and more dangerous to all kinds of folks traversing that route," said Gordon.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is currently working on the resumption of negotiations on the Code of Conduct, which will determine the only allowable actions countries can take in the South China Sea.

READ: PH working on resumption of talks on South China Sea Code of Conduct – Locsin 

China rejects the Philippines' arbitration win even after the international tribunal recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone that Beijing contests. However, both sides said they “agree to disagree” on the landmark decision to pursue cooperation.

READ: PH, China agree to continue ‘friendly consultation’ amid clashing statements on arbitral ruling