MANILA – (UPDATE) The Philippines on Tuesday required all foreign vessels passing through its waters to seek clearance from the national government ahead of time.
President Rodrigo Duterte warned foreign vessels that it’s either Manila gets a “compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” said the official.
Panelo said the Philippines would order foreign vessels that would disobey the country’s directive to “move out” of Manila’s waters.
The repeated unannounced passage of Chinese warships through Philippine waters prompted the President’s fresh directive, Panelo explained.
A day before Duterte’s order, Panelo said the issue would be raised as among “irritants” in Manila’s ties with Beijing when the chief executive flies to China later this month.
"It is an issue with the Office of the President given that we need to be informed in advance of any passage in our territory because that is what the UNCLOS says," Panelo said Monday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Monday Manila must file another diplomatic protest against Beijing over Chinese ships "trespassing" in Philippine waters.
The Philippines earlier protested the passage of Chinese warships through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi without prior clearance, and the swarm of 113 Chinese vessels around Filipino-occupied Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana last week said the Chinese warships' passage were "not so innocent anymore."
“I think it's not innocent anymore, dahil palagi na 'yan eh. Palagi na 'yang ginagawa eh. 'Saka why don’t they inform us? Ano ba 'yung 'huy, daan kami, makikiraan po.' Ganun lang naman 'yun sa'tin diba? Why the secrecy?” he said.
(I think it's not innocent anymore because they have done it often. They've been doing it. And why don’t they inform us? They can say, 'hey, we'll be passing through, please excuse us.' Why the secrecy?)