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Use of force ‘generally prohibited’ under int’l law, Philippines says of China’s new coast guard policy

The Philippines on Monday said the use of force is “generally prohibited” under international law after China recently passed a measure that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels amid competing claims in the South China Sea.

Speaking at a news conference, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said international law only permits the use of force in self-defense.

Roque, a former professor of international law, also said the use of force should be necessary, proportional and authorized by the UN Security Council.

“Habang mayroon pong kapangyarihan ang bansa dahil siya ay soberenya na magpasa ng batas na iiral sa kaniyang teritoryo, iyang mga batas pong iyan ay kinakailangan sumunod pa rin sa mga obligasyon sang-ayon sa UN [United Nations] Convention on the Law of the Sea kung saan kasapi po ang Tsina,” he said.

“Iyong paggamit po ng dahas ay generally prohibited.”

Roque reiterated Duterte’s commitment to the immediate conclusion of an effective code of conduct in the South China Sea aimed at preventing disputes from escalating into an armed conflict.

“Sana po walang gagawin ang kahit anong bansa dito sa usaping West Philippine Sea na magpapalala pa po ng sitwasyon,” the Palace official said.

According to a Reuters report, the draft wording in the bill that was published earlier allows the Chinese coast guard personnel to destroy other countries’ structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China.

It also empowers the coast guard to create temporary exclusion zones “as needed.”

China’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, was declared illegal in July 2016 by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration following a lawsuit by Manila.

The decision did not stop the Philippines, under Duterte, from seeking better economic and trade ties with China, which ignored the ruling. — RSJ, GMA News