The new Chinese law allowing the China Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels found to be infringing on their sovereignty or jurisdictions can be challenged before the international community if the use of force is found “unlawful”, a Filipino security and Chinese studies expert said Wednesday.
“There is a norm in international law regarding the use of excessive force so if China will use excessive force in the area then we have the right to also file a legal case,” Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), said during the virtual Roundtable Wednesday.
While it is China’s “sovereign prerogative” to pass such kind of legislation, he said the law must still adhere to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He added that the Chinese Coast Guard must exercise self-restraint and use force only as a last resort or for defensive purposes.
Former Ambassador and executive director of the Center for Archipelagic and Regional Seas Law and Policy Studies Alberto Encomienda said Manila should also execute similar instructions to its coast guard.
“Reading the newspapers, the Chinese instructs to fire when necessary. So, I really don’t see any problem there. Our own coast guard should have that instruction also,” he said in the same forum.
China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), passed on Jan. 23 a law authorizing the Chinese Coast Guard “to take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
Beijing and Manila are locked in a territorial dispute over the Spratlys in the South China Sea, which the former consistently regards as its “inherent territory”.
Among the forces manning the artificial islands there are the Chinese Coast Guard, who at several times had been the subject of complaints for intimidating Filipino fishermen attempting to fish in the region.
Asked what action Manila should take if the Chinese Coast Guard fires from an area it also claims, Banlaoi said: “We can always challenge China legally when that situation occurs. But we need to develop deterrent capability to prevent China from doing so.”
Banlaoi said Manila must match the efforts taken by Beijing and increase the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard’s presence in the area.
“(Ang) prinsipyo sa international politics associated with the maritime dispute, if you cannot patrol your water, you cannot own your water (The principle in international politics associated with the maritime dispute is if you cannot patrol your water, you cannot own your water),” he said in a separate radio interview.
At the same time, he suggested deepening ties with China so that they “will exercise self-restraint in using force against us”.
He added that the soon to be crafted code of conduct on the South China Sea between Beijing and the Asean is “also essential to address that issue”. PNA.GOV.PH