By Priam Nepomuceno

NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya (PNA file photo)

MANILA – An official of the National Security Council (NSC) on Monday shrugged off China’s latest announcement that it would arrest and detain for up to 60 days foreigners who will trespass on what it claims as its maritime territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In an interview with PTV’s “Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon”, NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said they are not paying much attention to this issue, which he called a plain “scare tactic”.

“The moment kasi we raised this officially, to the Chinese government, it is sort of some acquiescent for recognition na meron nga silang ganung klaseng authority (that they have than kind of authority) So ang amin panawagan, sa ating mga kababayan, tuloy-tuloy ang inyong pangingisda, yun atin mga sibilyan, yun mga civilian convoys na yan, tuloy-tuloy lang natin (we are calling on our fellow Filipinos, just continue with your fishing, just continue with your civilian convoys),” he said.

Malaya was referring to legal activities launched by Filipinos in the WPS, which is also being claimed by China.

He called on all of the other countries in Southeast Asia and other nations complying with international law to continue sailing in these “high seas”.

“Nothing will stop us there except ourselves. I-assert natin ang supremacy ng (we will assert) international law because that’s the only way we can have a rules-based international order,” he said.

China earlier said it has given authority to its Coast Guard to arrest and detain up to 60 days without trial foreigners that will attempt to enter or trespass what it considers its maritime borders starting June 15.

Malaya called China’s latest move “as provocative and escalatory” as it seems to threaten Filipino fishermen to keep them from fishing.

Aside from the Philippines, Malaya said Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan have also expressed concern over Beijing’s latest move.

However, he said China had made a similar announcement in 2021 but did not carry it out.

“So, sa tingin namin, at sa tingin din ng (from our view and those of the) Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), this is an empty threat on the part of China,” he said.

If China proceeds to implement such a move, Malaya said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and National Security Adviser, Secretary Eduardo Año, has instructed the PCG to beef up its presence along with the Philippine Navy. (PNA)