PH protests China law allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said he filed a diplomatic protest with China over its new law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.

"After reflection I fired a diplomatic protest," Locsin announced on his official Twitter page on Wednesday, an apparent change of mind from what he posted early this week.

Locsin on Monday said, "It's none of our business; it is China's business what laws it passes; so please a little self-restraint."

WATCH: PH Senators alarmed, DFA Chief unfazed by new Chinese law

In his latest tweet, Locsin explained, "While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one—given the area involved or for that matter the open South China Sea—is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it."

According to the Chinese military's news website, the legislation passed last week "empowers the Chinese Coast Guard to take action, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon or threatened by foreign organizations or individuals at sea."

The measure also states that the Chinese Coast Guard has the power to order foreign organizations and individuals to stop the construction of buildings, structures, and deployment of floating devices in the waters and islands of China.

"For those who do not stop the illegal activities or refuse to make rectifications within a time limit, the coast guard may forcibly dismantle [buildings and structures] in accordance with law," the law states, according to state-run China Global Television Network. 

Both websites quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying as citing China's dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. While they made no mention of the South China Sea, the law was seen as a source of confrontation among parties claiming parts of the global waterway, including the Philippines.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting an arbitral ruling that recognized Manila's sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone that Beijing contests. President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to set aside the landmark decision to make way for areas of cooperation, including the joint oil and gas exploration in disputed areas.

In a press briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reminded China to refrain from any use of force that could spark tension, and instead adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. While China is a signatory to this international treaty, it refuses to recognize the decision of the tribunal constituted under UNCLOS and backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China are negotiating for a Code of Conduct that will determine the only allowable actions parties can take in the South China Sea. The Philippines is country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.