By Genalyn Kabiling
All foreign vessels planning to pass the Philippines’ territorial waters must now first get clearance from the government based on a new directive of President Duterte.
If these ships refuse to comply with the President’s order, the government is prepared to enforce it in an “unfriendly manner” by stopping the vessel and telling the crew to move out of the local waters, according to Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.
He said the government would invoke the country’s mutual defense treaty with the United States “if there is an armed aggression of the foreign country against us.”
The President made the decision following the repeated passage of foreign vessels, particularly Chinese warships, in local waters without informing the government, Panelo said.
“To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” Panelo told reporters in the Palace, quoting Duterte.
“Either we get compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” he added.
Panelo affirmed that the government may use military force to enforce the President’s order if some ships pass the country without clearance. “If it will have to take that, we will do it,” he said.
In explaining the government’s unfriendly manner, Panelo said authorities will stop these unannounced foreign vessels and tell the crew to “move out” of the territorial waters.
“We will ask them to move out of the place. That’s unfriendly,” he said.
“Because before we never said anything, we just allowed them and just make protests. But this time we will tell them please get out of our territory. That’s very unfriendly because we have not done it before,” he said.
Asked if the government will invoke the MDT with the US, Panelo said: “If there is an armed aggression on the part of a foreign country against us, then we will be using that treaty. Only when there’s an armed aggression, there’s any attack.”
“Dati naman tayong hindi afraid eh. Kaya lang mapagbigay tayo eh. Friendly nga eh, friendly. But even between friends, there is a time to tell our friends not to do things not deemed to be an act of friendship,” he said.
“When you perform acts repeatedly this is about time to tell them to stop,” he added.
The military earlier confirmed that five Chinese warships recently passed through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi without informing the country’s authorities. There was supposed deception when the foreign ships traversing the Philippine waters switched off their automatic identification systems.
The Palace said the unannounced passage of Chinese warships in the country’ waters was not an act of friendship and could be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” Panelo said.