Chinese warship
While President Duterte did not refer to China by name, his warning came after security officials reported that Beijing had been deploying warships in Philippine territorial waters without proper coordination.
AFP/Guang Niu
Amid sightings of Chinese warships, Carpio urges Duterte to prioritize bill establishing sea lanes
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - August 22, 2019 - 3:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte should certify as an urgent measure a bill that would allow him to designate the sea lanes where foreign ships could pass amid the multiple sightings of Chinese warships in Philippine waters, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.

Duterte last Tuesday warned that foreign vessels that would sail through Philippine waters without permission would be given an “unfriendly” treatment.

“All foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” he said.

In a statement, Carpio said that under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, a coastal state cannot require foreign commercial vessels and warships exercising innocent passage to ask permission or prior notification.

Carpio said Congress should pass the Archipelagic Sea Lanes Passage bill, which seeks to designate Philippine maritime lanes and air routes where foreign vessels and aircraft can exercise the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage.

“The law can require foreign ships exercising the right to archipelagic sea lane passage to turn on their Automatic Identification System (AIS) and for submarines to surface and show their flag,” the magistrate explained.

“The bill has been pending in Congress for years now. The president should certify it as an urgent measure,” he added.

Presidential certification allows Congress to proceed with the third reading of the bill once the measure is approved on second reading without having to wait for at least three days in between as otherwise required by the Constitution.

Duterte has frustrated nationalists after he shelved the Philippines’ legal victory against China’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich waters in exchange for warmer ties and economic windfall.

While Duterte did not refer to China by name, his warning came after security officials reported that Beijing had been deploying warships through Philippine territorial waters without proper coordination.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he talked to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua after the first sightings in February this year, during which the military qualified that the Chinese vessels were not conducting “innocent passage” through Sibutu Strait.

Zhao reportedly promised Lorenzana that the incidents were “wrong” and would be looked into. But the incidents were repeated in June and this month.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese warships’ actions in Philippine seas. — with a report from Kristine Joy Patag

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