By Genalyn Kabiling
Foreign vessels exercising innocent passage in local waters must not engage in surveillance, marine resource exploration, and fishing, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Sunday as the government tightened the monitoring of such ships.
Nograles said the “code of conduct” for foreign ships should be part of the bill seeking to establish the country’s archipelagic sea lanes where vessels can pass through.
The archipelagic sea lanes bill is one of the priority measures endorsed by the Cabinet security cluster and will be tackled in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) next month.
“The archipelagic sea lanes bill na sinusulong ng security justice and peace cluster will clearly define saan puwede mag-traverse o saan puwede dumaan, ano ba talaga yung archipelagic sea lanes natin, sino puwedeng dumaan. Habang dumadaan sila dito, ano yung puwede nilang gawin at hindi puwedeng gawin at dapat namo-monitor natin sila [The archipelagic sea lanes bill endorsed by the Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace will clearly define where the foreign ships can traverse or pass, establish our archipelagic sea lanes, who can pass these lanes, and while passing, what they can or cannot do. We must be able to monitor them],” Nograles said in a radio interview.
“Kapag dumadaan sila, talagang dadaan lang sila for innocent passage kasi hindi ito yung final destination. So habang dumadaan sila dapat hindi sila nangingisda, dapat hindi nagco-conduct ng mga surveillance, dapat hindi sila nagco-conduct ng exploratory, exploration or exploitation of any our resources [If they pass our waters, they will really pass for innocent passage since this is not their final destination. While passing our waters, they should not engage in fishing, conduct surveillance, conduct exploratory, exploration or exploitation of any our resources],” he added.
President Duterte earlier issued a directive, requiring all foreign vessels to notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of their actual passage.
The President’s decision came amid government concerns on the unannounced passage of some Chinese warships along Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi, which the Palace considered “not an act of friendship.”
Apart from getting the government’s permission for voyage, Nograles said foreign ships must use the designated sea lanes and not trespass in other territorial waters. The passing vessels must also keep their automatic identification systems turned on to avoid any problem, he said.
“Ito yung mga importanteng protocols na dapat sundin nila [These are the important protocols they should follow],” he said.
“Ayon sa UNCLOS data, magkaroon din tayo ng isang batas na nagde-define ng code of conduct and protocol pag may nag innocent passage sa ating archipelagic sea lanes [Based on UNCLOS, we must have a law that define code of conduct, protocol when there’s innocent passage in the archipelagic sea lanes],” he added.