CHINA was not targeting the Philippines when it passed a new law allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels entering disputed territories, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana.
“The Chinese have reassured us through their spokesman, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman as well as the Chinese Embassy…that they are not targeting the Philippines or any specific country and that they will not resort to force in the first instance,” the ambassador said on Tuesday, February 16.
“I want to explain that through the objection, through the diplomatic note and through the diplomatic discussion, the Chinese have tried to reassure that they will still exercise restraint. This is what we are calling for, that all claimant countries resort to diplomacy and avoid the use of force,” added Sta. Romana.
Last month, China passed the Coast Guard Law, permitting its coast guard to use “all necessary means, including the use of weapons” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels.
A diplomatic protest against the new law was filed by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on January 27.
“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one – given the area involved or for that matter the open South China Sea – is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it,” said Locsin.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila, in response, assured that the Coast Guard Law is not a threat of war.
“Enacting such a coast guard law is not unique to China, but a sovereign right to all. Many countries have enacted similar legislation. It is the Philippine Coast Guard Law of 2009 that established the PCG as an armed and uniformed service. None of these laws have been seen as a threat of war,” it said on February 1.
The embassy also maintained that the Coast Guard Law doesn’t target any country.
“China Coast Guard Law doesn’t specifically target any certain country. The enact of the law doesn’t indicate any change of China’s maritime policy,” it said.
“China has always been committed to managing differences with countries including the Philippines through dialogue and consultations and upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea,” it added.