By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

SAFETY FIRST. Life vests used during the “Atin Ito” civilian mission to the West Philippine Sea on May 14 to 17, 2024. The volunteer activity distributed 6,000 liters of fuel and a thousand food packs to 670 fisherfolk. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – The Chinese government’s policy of detaining “trespassers” would be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) if applied to areas beyond its jurisdiction in the South China Sea (SCS), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

“We have to see what will happen but obviously, whatever they said, if that’s correct it’s inconsistent with UNCLOS,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Tuesday.

The South China Morning Post last week reported that under the new regulation of the 2021 Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) Law, the CCG could “detain” foreigners suspected of illegally crossing Chinese borders up to 60 days without trial.

The new regulation, effective starting June 15, was issued following the successful civilian mission conducted by the “Atin Ito” (This is Ours) Coalition off Scarborough Shoal.

As of this posting, no official translated version of the CCG regulation has been released.

China claims a huge swath of the South China Sea, including several features situated in it, as part of its territory.

This claim, based on Beijing’s nine-dash-line, overlaps with the internationally-recognized exclusive economic zones of several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines.

Given this claim, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes the new regulation would empower the CCG to expel foreign individuals or foreign vessels that sail in the Philippine EEZ and the high seas of the South China Sea.

“Atin Ito” volunteers, including about 100 small fishing boats, helped distribute a total of 6,000 liters of fuel and a thousand food packs to 670 fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea on May 14 to 17.

The Philippine Coast Guard deployed two vessels (BRP Bagacay and BRP Panglao) as escorts, in addition to an aerial asset from the Aviation Command.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines likewise lauded the group “for its significant role in asserting the Philippine’s presence and rights in the West Philippine Sea.” (PNA)