By Darryl John Esguerra

OURS. A group of fisherfolk releases an 18-foot symbolic buoy bearing the Philippine flag and a large “Atin ang Pinas!” (The Philippines is Ours) sign off the waters of Barangay San Salvador, Masinloc, Zambales on Nov. 6, 2023. The Department of Foreign Affairs denounced Sunday (May 26, 2024) China’s threat to detain for a maximum 60 days without trial perceived foreign trespassers who will cross what it claims are its borders. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – China’s new policy of detaining “trespassers” in the waters that it claims is a direct violation of international law, the Philippines said Sunday as it expressed “serious concern” over Beijing’s latest move.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China cannot enforce its own laws within a sovereign state’s territory.

“Every sovereign state has the right to formulate and enact laws, including the enforcement of domestic legislation within its jurisdiction,” the DFA said, but added that these same domestic laws cannot be applied nor enforced in the high seas under international law.

“A state’s domestic laws may not be applied and enforced in the territory, maritime zones or jurisdiction of other states, nor violate other sovereign states’ rights and entitlements under international law,” it added.

The DFA pointed out that China’s new regulations are issued based on the 2021 Coast Guard law which also “illegally expanded the maritime law enforcement powers of China’s Coast Guard.”

“China would be in direct violation of international law should it enforce these new regulations in the waters and maritime features within the illegal, null and void, and expansive 10-dash line, which would effectively cover areas of the West Philippine Sea where the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, or in the high seas,” the DFA said.

It also raised concerns over China’s “Regulations on Administrative Law Enforcement Procedures for Coast Guard Agencies” which was approved and announced on May 15 and is supposed to take effect on June 15.

The policy reportedly allows the China Coast Guard to detain for up to 60 days without trial perceived foreign trespassers who will cross what it claims are its borders.

The new policy came after the “Atin Ito” (This is Ours) Coalition held a civilian convoy on May 15 to 17 to Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), which forms part of the vast South China Sea that Beijing entirely claims as its own.

The DFA also asked China to “ensure that its relevant legislation clearly reflects and abide by its commitments and obligations under international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, as well as the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”

At the same time, it reiterated its call for China to comply with international law and desist from any action that would undermine and peace and stability in the region.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recently said China’s new policy is “completely unacceptable”, adding that the Philippines would take “whatever measures” to protect Filipinos amid escalating tensions in the contested waters. (PNA)