Diplomatic protest vs China coast guard law won't affect vax procurement â Palace
A Sinovac Biotech LTD vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus is on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6, 2020.
AFP/Noel Celis

Diplomatic protest vs China coast guard law won't affect vax procurement — Palace

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - January 28, 2021 - 6:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' diplomatic protest against a law that allows the Chinese coast guard to fire on foreign vessels won't affect the purchase of China-made COVID-19 vaccines, Malacañang said Thursday.

China, whose extensive claim in the resource-rich South China Sea is being opposed by the Philippines and four other claimants, recently adopted a law authorizing its coast guard to "take all necessary measures" to prevent maritime incursions. Under the law, the Chinese coast guard can board and inspect foreign ships in waters claimed by China and demolish foreign structures on Beijing-claimed reefs and islands.

The Philippines, which is buying 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Chinese drug maker Sinovac, has protested the law, with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. describing it as a "verbal threat of war" to any country that defies it.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said China's coast guard law and the vaccine supply deal between Manila and Beijing are two different issues.

"It won't have an effect because the vaccine is a different issue. The vaccine is actually a humanitarian act of the entire planet Earth in response to a humanitarian disaster," Roque said at a press briefing.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through every year, but this is being contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. In 2016, a Hague-based arbitral court ruled that China's wide-reaching maritime claim has no legal basis but Beijing refuses to recognize the decision.

Roque also assured the public that President Duterte is determined to protect Filipino fishermen following reports that a Chinese coast guard ship bullied a Philippine fishing boat near the Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea. He said opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who has urged Duterte to denounce the incident, does not need to tell the President what to do.

"You know, we have separation of powers. Sen. Risa Hontiveros does not need to dictate what the President should do. The President has maintained that he is the President of Filipinos, that he would protect Filipinos and if necessary, he would stand by it," Roque said.

"When it comes to illegal fishing, the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) states that illegal fishermen cannot be arrested, more so, they should not be shot. Okay? So the President will protect our countrymen in spite of what Senator Risa Hontiveros says," he added.

Roque reiterated that while a country can enact laws, it has to comply with the international law, which prohibits the use of violence unless it is done for self-defense or authorized by the UN Security Council.

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