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China says PH shouldn't 'worry' about new coast guard rules

China says PH shouldn't 'worry' about new coast guard rules

New rules outlined by China's coast guard that could result in the detention of foreigners in the South China Sea should not cause any concern, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday, after Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr said the rules were an escalation and "worrisome."

China, which has maritime sovereignty disputes with the Philippines and other countries, issued new rules effective June 15 that would enforce a 2021 coast guard law and allow detention of foreigners suspected of trespassing.

The rules aim to standardize law enforcement and better uphold maritime order, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news conference. There is no need for any individual or entity to worry "as long as there is no illegal behavior," Mao added.

The Philippines "will use any point of contact with China to stop aggressive actions" and allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the South China Sea, Marcos told reporters during a state visit to Brunei.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that China's claims over the South China Sea have no legal basis, a decision that Beijing does not recognize.

Marcos, in Brunei, said there are backchannel efforts to resolve the issue with China.

''Yes, of course, there are. I've said it many times. You should try everything," Marcos told reporters when asked if there are any meetings or backchannel efforts to resolve or at least forge some sort of middle ground with China. 

"So, as any point of contact that I can establish I will use it, and at every level," Marcos added.

Fishing expedition

On Thursday afternoon, over 20 small boats of fishermen in Zambales in the Philippines will conduct collective fishing expedition in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to "assert" their rights amid China’s unilateral fishing ban over the South China Sea (SCS).

"There is no better way to assert fishing rights in our exclusive economic zone than to conduct a collective economic activity,” said Ronnel Arambulo, fishers group PAMALAKAYA national vice chairperson. 

The Philippines does not recognize China’s May 1 to September 16 fishing moratorium as it included Manila's maritime zones over which the country has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

"The Philippines called on China to cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions that violate the Philippines' sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in its maritime zones," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Monday.  —with GMA Integrated News/KBK, GMA Integrated News