Soon after China’s amended Maritime Traffic Safety Law took effect on September 1 requiring all foreign vessels sailing in the South China Sea to report their information to Chinese authorities, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana promised that Manila will ignore it.
Lorenzana made the promise during his visit to the United States where he hopes for a review of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the U.S. and is asking for more advanced military equipment to face China’s territorial threat.
This new push to bolster U.S.-Philippines defense ties comes after a year of give and take on abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. which President Rodrigo Duterte finally reversed last month, opening the door for expanded military relations.
Despite a 2016 ruling at The Hague that determined that China’s claim over most of the South China Sea has no legal basis, Beijing has continued to expand its presence in the area, building artificial island air bases and bullying neighboring countries over its illegal maritime claims.
According to Aljazeera:
On Monday, the Chinese state-owned publication Global Times reported that the revised maritime law has taken effect as of September 1.
It covers five types of vessels including submersibles, nuclear vessels, ships carrying radioactive materials, ships carrying bulk oil, chemicals, liquefied gas and other toxic and harmful substances, and other vessels “that might endanger China’s maritime traffic safety”, according to the Global Times.
Beijing clarified that the new law does not hinder freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
But the US calls it a “serious threat”, and a foreign policy expert has described it as an attempt by China to force other countries to submit to its control by reporting their ships to Chinese authorities.
In January, China also passed the Coast Guard Law that for the first time explicitly allows its coastguard to fire on foreign vessels within their jurisdiction.
During an event marking the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, Lorenzana said: “Our stand on that is we do not honor those laws by the Chinese within the West Philippine Sea because we consider that we have the sovereign right within these waters. So, we will not recognize this law of the Chinese.”
However, Lorenzana added that it is time for a comprehensive review of Manila’s alliance with the U.S., saying the Philippines is getting less from its relationship with Washington than even non-treaty allies. He said there is a need to “upgrade” and “update” the alliance and to make clear the “extent of American commitments.”
Lorenzana said the weaknesses and ambiguities in the MDT explained why seven out of 10 Filipinos supported President Duterte’s call for engagement with China, and more than half doubted U.S. reliability as an ally in these maritime disputes. ADN