MANILA, Philippines - Reinforcing its protest against China's excessive claim over the entire South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced yesterday that the Philippines will no longer stamp its visas on the Chinese e-passport to avoid the country being misconstrued as legitimizing China’s 9-dash line map.
Instead, the Philippines will stamp it in a separate visa application form, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said yesterday.
"This action is being undertaken to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the 9-dash line every time a Philippine visa is stamped on such Chinese e-passport," the DFA said in a statement.
The DFA is preparing for an early implementation of this action.
"Through this action, the Philippines reinforces its protest against China's excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines views the expansive 9-dash claim as inconsistent with international law, specifically United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," the DFA added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said last Thursday that a note verbale was sent to the Chinese embassy strongly protesting the inclusion of the 9-dash lines in the Chinese e-passports.
He said China's claims include an area that is "clearly part of the Philippines' territory and maritime domain."
Meanwhile, Malacañang said yesterday the government would not speculate on reports that the United States would raise concerns with Beijing over a map printed in the new Chinese passports that was causing "tension and anxiety" among claimant states of the disputed territories.
Lacierda said he was not aware how the US came up with the decision to discuss the passport issue with China or if it was related to the positions taken by Vietnam or India.
"But, certainly, it is something that we welcome, the decision of the United States to discuss this with China," he said.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said yesterday her government intends to raise with China the printing of the map on the passports.
Nuland said Washington would make clear to Beijing that this is not helpful to having an environment where the countries involved can settle it.
"We do have concerns about this map which is causing tension and anxiety between and among the states in the South China Sea. We do intend to raise this with the Chinese in terms of it not being helpful to the environment. We all seek to resolve these issues," Nuland said in a press briefing.
When asked how the US would like to see the Chinese resolve or decrease the tensions, Nuland said "I don't think I have a remedy to predict here."
"But I think we will make clear that this is not helpful to what we all want, which is an environment where the countries involved in this can settle it," she added.
Nuland said it is up to countries to decide on the look of their passports, and the US would still accept China's as a legal document.
But she added: "That's a different matter than whether it's politically smart or helpful to be taking steps that antagonize countries."
Beijing has been objecting to the US "entry" into the West Philippine Sea issue. The US has no territorial claim itself but says it has a national interest in the stability of a region vital to global trade.
Vietnam had also objected to the map, claiming it shows the disputed maritime regions as belonging to China. It refused to honor the Chinese passports and required travelers to show other documents while India complained of the map's depiction of its northern border with China, and retaliated by issuing the Chinese visas embossed with New Delhi's own maps.
Self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of China, had also condemned the map, which is printed on inside pages of the passport.
Opposition supports P-Noy
Meanwhile, the House opposition bloc would rather have Aquino rude than wimpy as they backed yesterday his firmness in locking horns with China to assert the country's claims over the West Philippine Sea.
House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez denounced a Chinese national daily that called Aquino "rude" for raising the issue during the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh last week.
Suarez noted the President rejected the position of Cambodia, an ally of China, to keep the discussions of the territorial dispute with the claimant nations.
"We in the minority concur with our President on this matter. When it comes to our sovereignty, we should all have one voice and we should all support our leader," he said.
"I will call it stubborn but I don't think the President is rude. If they (China) want to call the President rude, it's up to them but the position of the minority is we agree with the President's stubbornness when it comes to defending the right of our country," he added.
Senators expressed opposing views yesterday over China's "aggressive" move to include the disputed West Philippine Sea in the map printed on its passports.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago described the act as an "affront to Philippine sovereignty."
"We can't prevent China from printing any kind of passport bearing any kind of legend or photograph. That is vicious, but we have sovereign power to prevent any person from entering the Philippine territory by any entry point - sea, land or air - seaport, airport or any other means of transportation," Santiago said.
She said any Chinese national bearing the "questionable" passport should be denied entry to the country.
"So I don't care what they print on their own passport because we cannot infringe on their own sovereignty but I do care as a Filipino citizen, the moment they come into our country, if they bear that kind of passport they will be acting well within our right to deny them admission into our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self deported upon arrival at the airport," she added.
Santiago said the Philippines should encourage a "strong regional action" over China's latest move.
"We should take a strong regional action against this apparently miniscule controversy because it might be the beginning of a wave of protectionism in China over this territory that is included in their map," Santiago said.
"This might just be their initial step, and we should better complain now," she said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the country's top foreign officials to express massive concern and protest over China's move.
"We should question (that) because they included disputed areas... The other countries within Asia have complained. We should also make a strong protest," Lacson said.
However, for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the map on the China passport is no big deal.
"If they would like to have a passport like that, so what? We can also create our own passport. We can include the entire Pacific area, include some of their areas there so it doesn't matter," he said. - With Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude