China’s new law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on disputed islands is fair warning for the Philippines to craft a stronger position with ASEAN countries against it, University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay Batongbacal recently said in an interview.
He said the diplomatic protest of the Philippines filed over the new law is an appropriate means of communication and response to China’s latest act of aggressive expansionism.
“The Philippines should now talk with ASEAN countries first who are similarly situated where China could also claim they are exercising their jurisdiction and therefore implicitly threatening the use of force in their waters. We all have to have the same position. That’s the only way to slow China down on this,” Batongbacal said.
“We know from previous experience in the last three years that they try to exercise their jurisdiction even in waters that are not their own, so it’s a military service carrying out an act of aggression against your ships whether they’re private or public,” he noted.
After initially saying it is “none of our business,” our Twitter-brave Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. caved in and said on Wednesday that he filed a diplomatic protest with China over its new law. In a tweet, Locsin said the new Chinese law “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies it” and failure to challenge the law “is submission to it.”
With a hesitant Foreign Affairs Secretary and an Armed Forces that would rather downplay claims of a local fisherman of being blocked from fishing in the West Philippine Sea, it remains to be seen how our government intends to protect our interests in that resource-rich and strategic disputed waters. Perhaps if criticism on traditional and social media is sustained, further action to protect our legitimate interests will be taken by government officials.*