Malacañang on Thursday expressed concern over the military’s report that Chinese ships sailed in country’s waters without informing the government, saying it was not “an act of friendship.
“We express concern with that kind of incident because, if they keep saying we are friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
He also said the conduct of Chinese vessels sailing unannounced may be a violation of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.
UNCLOS states that ships may pass through the territorial sea of a coastal state provided the passage will be “continuous and expeditious.”
The military reported that Chinese warships passed through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi with their automatic identification systems switched off.
Panelo assured the public that the Department of Foreign Affairs “will do something” about the incidents, including the filing of a diplomatic protest.
He also said he might raise the issue of the warships with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who invited him in a dinner.
The DFA recently filed three diplomatic protests over the passage of Chinese survey ships and warships, swarming of Chinese ships around Pag-asa Island, and the ramming by a Chinese vessel of a Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank.
Panelo agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who had previously criticized China’s aggressive stance in Panatag Shoal, calling it “bullying.
“With respect to what Secretary Lorenzana said that when you drive away fishermen from our EEZ [exclusive economic zone], I agree with him when he says that’s bullying,” Panelo told Palace reporters
President Duterte will go to China later this month, saying he would invoke the 2016 arbitral ruling, which favored the Philippines.
The Palace has yet to release details of the upcoming meeting.
Zhao had previously said China would not change its position over its South China Sea claims.
On Thursday, Panelo said neither would the Philippines.
“But it doesn’t mean that as friends, we cannot discuss that issue. It has to be discussed, that is precisely why there is a mechanism for negotiation,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno asked the Supreme Court to allow the withdrawal of their petition for a writ of kalikasan that they had filed on behalf of several fishermen after most of them withdrew their petition.
The writ would have compelled the administration to protect the marine resources in Philippine territorial waters, including the West Philippine Sea. With Rey E. Requejo