The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Monday said China's new law authorizing its Coast Guard to shoot foreign vessels sailing through its claimed areas in the disputed South China Sea conforms with international law.
The embassy also denied reports of the Chinese Coast Guard ships harassing Filipino fishermen and intruding in Philippine waters.
The Chinese Embassy stressed that such law is a sovereign right and similarly enforced by other states, including the Philippines.
"The formulation of the Coast Guard Law is a normal domestic legislative activity of China. The content of the law conforms to international conventions and the practices of the international community," the embassy said in a statement.
"Enacting such a Coast Guard law is not unique to China, but a sovereign right to all. Many countries have enacted similar legislation," it added.
It also cited a Philippine Coast Guard Law in 2009 that established the PCG as an armed and uniformed service.
"None of these laws have been seen as a threat of war," it pointed out.
Critics said the new China Coast Guard law could stoke tensions in the region and is seen as a potential trigger for armed conflict.
However, China downplayed these as "false accusations" and a "misinterpretation" of a "normal legislation."
"China Coast Guard Law doesn't specifically target any certain country," the embassy explained, as it emphasized the passage of the law does not indicate a change of its maritime policy.
This developed as Malacanang said the proposed South China Sea Code of Conduct (SCS-COC) was not “dead on arrival” after China passed a new law allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands it claims.
“We remain hopeful that talks on the proposed SCS-COC will continue despite China’s new law allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels in Chinese-claimed reefs,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
“Many countries are still looking forward and talking about it, especially the countries that have their claim in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
Roque made the statement after retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio commented that China had made the South China Sea COC “dead on arrival” when it passed its Coast Guard law.
China’s Coast Guard Law, passed last week, empowers the force to take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.
“As to whether or not the Code of Conduct is dead, I don’t think so, because that is continuously being discussed by countries with claims over the West Philippine Sea,” Roque said.
'Wait and see'
The Palace official said the country should wait and see how China would implement the law to determine whether it violates a nation’s rights.
He said the former chief justice knew that when you assail the validity of a law, there must be a proper party who would claim that his rights had been violated.
“So far, there’s none. Let’s wait and see how this law will be implemented but we have already filed a diplomatic protest and we leave it at that,” he added.
Roque also explained that bringing the new China law to a United Nations tribunal would depend on the decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the ministry of foreign affairs in other countries.
An analyst, meanwhile, said China must be sanctioned like other rogue nations over its excessive maritime claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Greg Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative-Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ANC, "China has to be isolated and named and shamed and sanctioned for its behavior in the same way that we sanctioned other rogue regimes, the way we treat the Russians or North Koreans."
"Otherwise, it sees no cost to the way it does business in the South China Sea. So why shouldn’t it continue?"
The Washington-based think tank expects to see rising tensions as China "tries to throw its weight around" in the vital waterway.
In a related development, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives sought a congressional inquiry into the proliferation of Chinese ships reportedly conducting illegal dredging activities in the country.
In filing House Resolution 1258, the group asked the House committee on natural resources to conduct the said investigation in light of the recent seizure of a Chinese dredger for “illegal and unauthorized presence” in Philippine waters by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Customs.
“This incident is not the first time when Chinese-manned dredging ships were caught conducting illegal activities in the Philippines.
Since 2017, there are several reports of illegal Chinese dredging activities in different parts of the country,” they said in the resolution
They added: “Residents near the areas repeatedly raised alarms over these activities as these cause adverse environmental effects and negatively impact to their livelihood.
“Moreover, there are reports saying that the dredged materials from these illegal Chinese operations are being used in the creation of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.”
In seeking the probe, the Makabayan Bloc cited cases related to illegal dredging operations in the country involving Chinese ships and workers, such as the September 2019 arrest of seven undocumented Chinese workers found to be involved in an illegal dredging operation in Masinloc town in Zambales.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald dela Rosa supported the proposal to conduct joint naval drills of Filipino and American troops in the West Philippine Sea to prevent China from attacking Filipino fishermen there.
Dela Rosa was referring to the suggestion made by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio amid the new Chinese Coast
Guard law which allows Chinese forces to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
“That’s a good idea (Joint PHL-US naval drills in West Philippine Sea) so that the Chinese would feel we are ready in the event they get to be overly aggressive, with the support of the United States, given the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Dela Rosa said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
He was referring to the MDT inked between the Philippines and US in 1951 wherein both parties agreed that an armed attack in the Pacific
Area on either the Philippines and the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with the constitutional processes.