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PH may file new case if China detains sea 'trespassers' -senators

The Philippines may file another case before an international court should China detain foreign nationals, particularly Filipinos, for “trespassing” in the South China Sea, several senators said Sunday. 

Senator Francis Tolentino pointed out that there were existing provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which state that what China planned to do violated international maritime laws. 

Beijing said in its controversial regulation, which will take effect in June, that the China Coast Guard would detain trespassers in the South China Sea for up to 60 days.

“Kung mangyayari 'yan, baka kung mangahas na sila nang ganyan, merong mga probisyon sa UNCLOS, lalo na ang Article 73, maliwanag ‘to—the coastal state can impose penalties for violation of fisheries laws and regulations in the exclusive economic zone, and may not include imprisonment,” Tolentino said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview. 

(If that happens, there are provisions in UNCLOS, particularly Article 73, that clearly state that the coastal state can impose penalties for violation of fisheries laws and regulations in the exclusive economic zone, and may not include imprisonment.) 

“Maliwanag dito sa UNCLOS na mali ang ginagawa nila. So, subject to another case ito. Pwede tayong mag-file ng panibagong kaso sa China sa ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea),” he added. 

(It’s clear in the UNCLOS that what China is doing is wrong. So, this is subject to another case. We can file another case with China before the ITLOS.) 

The Philippine government already sued China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. The Court ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016 when it junked China's nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.

China, however, refuses to recognize the ruling to this day.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said that the "Atin Ito" civilian mission clearly hit a nerve with China, prompting it to take a “tyrannical tactic that will only escalate tensions even further” in the West Philippine Sea. 

“Should Beijing dare push through with this illegitimate regulation, the Philippines’ hand may be forced to sue them again in the Hague Tribunal,” she said in a statement. 

“China better abrogate this shameless policy. China better stop inciting violence in our waters. China better leave the West Philippine Sea alone.”

Hontiveros also said that the Philippine government should urge allies like the United States, Japan, Australia, and France to oppose China’s “flagrant violation” of international law by joining patrols within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday condemned China’s detainment order, saying that that kind of action “would be completely unacceptable to the Philippines.” 

“The position that we take is that that it is unacceptable, and we will take whatever measures to always protect our citizens,” Marcos said. — DVM, GMA Integrated News