Enough is enough

August 20, 2019
Salvador Panelo

We’ll drive away foreign warships entering our territory without permission –– Palace.

AFTER the reported intrusions of Chinese warships, the Philippines yesterday said it would drive away foreign vessels passing through its territorial waters without permission.

At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte wants passing foreign vessels to seek permission first, adding non-compliance may force the Philippine government to act in an “unfriendly manner.”

“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,” Panelo said.

“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner.”               
When pressed by reporters what the government meant by an “unfriendly manner,” Panelo said, “We will have to stop them and tell them to move out.”

“Before we never said anything, we just allow them and make protest but this time we will tell them: ‘Please get out of our territory.’ That’s very unfriendly because we have not done it before,” he said.

He said the military may be tapped to shoo away the non-compliant foreign vessels if necessary.

“If it will have to take that, we will do it,” he said.

Asked if the government is ready to use military force, Panelo said, “Well, I suppose.”

Panelo did not say what prompted Duterte to issue the order but “there has been repeated passing through without being notified by some foreign vessels, particularly the Chinese warships.”

“When you perform acts repeatedly, then it’s about time to tell them to stop,” Panelo said.

Duterte’s move comes after Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday ordered another filing of a diplomatic protest over the repeated passage of Chinese warships through Philippine waters.

Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, said last week that two Chinese warships were spotted in Sibutu Strait in July while three were monitored in August.

Previously, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Chinese warships had passed through Sibutu Strait four times since February.

Sobejana described the Chinese vessels as armed and their passage through the strait not innocent.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows innocent passage of ships through the territorial sea of a coastal state provided that it will be “continuous and expeditious.”

Both the Philippines and China are signatories to the UNCLOS.

Duterte will be in China from August 28 to September 2 for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other activities.