MANILA - The Philippines will call China’s attention over the passage of Beijing’s warships without informing Manila, Malacañang said Thursday.
The reported passage of 5 Chinese warships in the Sibutu Strait in the Philippines' southern tip last July and earlier this month without informing local authorities violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Violation ng UNCLOS ‘yan eh kung dumaraan sa ating EEZ (exclusive economic zone) (It’s a violation of UNCLOS if it passes by our EEZ). I’m sure the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) Secretary will do something about that,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“Basta 'pag may (whenever there is a) violation sa UNCLOS, we will file a diplomatic complaint,” he said.
Panelo said he might mention the incident when he meets with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
“We will call their attention. The Chinese Ambassador has invited me for dinner in one of these days. Maybe I will raise that to him,” he said.
Manila is concerned about the passage of Chinese warships without the clearance of local authorities since it goes against acts of “friendship,” Panelo explained.
“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” he said.
Zhao last week downplayed concerns on the passage of Chinese warships, saying Beijing is "not seeking trouble" amid unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.
“There are a lot of ships that [are] navigating in the South China Sea. Within military, I think each one of the ships, particularly Navy ships, deserves careful observation. Not only the Chinese and the Philippines know but also everyone,” Zhao said on the sidelines of an event.
“China will continue to be a good friend, a good neighbor and close relatives of the Filipino people,” he said.
The Philippines earlier reminded China to accord Manila with the “courtesies” required of “friends.”
“Even on the basis of friendship, then a matter of courtesy require[s] that we should be informed of any passage to our exclusive economic zone,” Panelo said last week.
President Rodrigo Duterte last week said he would push for the South China Sea code of conduct when he flies to Beijing later this month as he noted that China could be delaying the talks for the much-awaited agreement to manage tensions in the disputed waters.
“They are delaying it and it’s causing so many incidents and one day it will --- one mistake, a miscalculation there and mahirap na bawian ‘yun (it's hard to take back),” he told reporters, noting that the lack of a binding code “is becoming a very big issue.”
In 2017, China and Southeast Asian countries with conflicting maritime claims agreed to start talks on a sea code, seen to replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.