MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte raised with his counterpart Xi Jinping the presence of Chinese warships in Philippine waters during their bilateral meeting, the Philippines' defense chief said on Wednesday.
Xi, however, responded that international law does not require ships passing through other nations' waters to get permission, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
"He reassured PRRD (Duterte) that their naval ships are not coercing or targeting the Philippines," Lorenzana told reporters.
Government earlier filed diplomatic protests against Beijing over the ships' passage and the swarm of 113 Chinese vessels around Filipino-occupied Pag-asa Island.
Lorenzana said the frequency of entry of these Chinese warships is out of the ordinary, with military commanders saying their movements no longer constitute “innocent passage,” or the expeditious travel through territorial waters out back out to international waters.
The Philippine defense sector is further alarmed because none of these warships have asked for clearance from the Philippines, nor communicated their arrival in any way.
Some, they said, do not even respond to radio challenges that inquire about their identity and intent.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not require passing vessels to seek permission from the coastal state if they are conducting "innocent" passage.
The Philippines, however, has historically asked all nations to seek diplomatic clearance when they have warships entering the country’s territorial sea, and nations have complied thus far, including the United States and Japan.
Only China refuses to notify the Philippines when its warships enter Philippine waters, something that Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio calls a “double standard,” because China requires nations to seek permission from them when entering its waters.