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PHL to implement new policy on controversial Chinese e-passports next week

The government will implement its new visa regulation sometime next week for Chinese nationals who will use passports displaying a map that includes an area in the disputed West Philippine Sea. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez on Thursday said all concerned agencies such as Philippine diplomatic missions and the Bureau of Immigration will “simultaneously” carry out the new policy aimed at denigrating China's latest attempt to bolster its territorial claim. Hernandez said visa and immigration stamps will be placed on a separate sheet of document given to Chinese visitors entering the Philippines. Manila’s action reinforces its protest against what it calls China’s excessive claim over almost the entire potentially oil-rich West Philippine Sea (also South China Sea). “This action is being undertaken to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the 9-dash line every time a Philippine visa is stamped on such Chinese e-passport,” Hernandez said, referring to China’s U-shaped nine-dotted line claim that covers most of the sea and overlaps with the Philippines' territories. The Philippine move came after Vietnam implemented a similar policy on the new Chinese passports, which Manila called “unacceptable.” Chinese visitors need to apply for a visa to enter the Philippines. Under the new scheme, Philippine visas will be stamped on a visa form to be provided by the DFA’s embassies or consulates abroad to Chinese nationals, Hernandez explained. Immigration officers at Philippine airports, on the other hand, will affix its entry stamps on the same document and not on the new Chinese passports, Hernandez said. The Philippines and China, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have long disputed ownership of the West Philippine Sea or also known as the South China Sea, a chain of islands, cays, reefs and atolls believed to be rich in oil and gas. Last year, the Philippines and Vietnam separately accused Chinese vessels of intruding into their territories in and near the Spratlys off the West Philippine Sea, and of disrupting their oil exploration activities. China claimed it has sovereignty in those areas on historical grounds. Chinese and Philippine government ships also figured in a standoff starting in April at Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, a sprawling offshore area off Zambales province and north of the Spratlys. Both China and the Philippines claim ownership  of the shoal. Manila has considered to elevate its disputes with China to a mediation body in the United Nations. — Michaela del Callar/KBK, GMA News