Philippines queries China on order to board vessels

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 9:02pm

The Philippines has asked China to clarify reports Beijing ordered its navy to board and interdict foreign ships entering its claimed territories in the South China Sea, an official said on Monday.

The foreign department said a diplomatic note seeking clarifications was sent on Saturday following reports appearing in the Chinese media, department spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters.

“We would like China to immediately clarify its reported plans to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea,” said the note, which the department posted on its website.

“If media reports are accurate, this planned action by China is ... a direct threat to the entire international community.

“It violates not only the maritime domain of coastal states established under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), but also impedes the fundamental freedom of navigation and lawful commerce.”

Hernandez said that according to reports the Chinese law would take effect in Hainan province in January next year and allow Chinese authorities to board, inspect, detain, confiscate, immobilise and expel vessels caught sailing through.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbours.

The claim is contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have overlapping claims to some or all of those same areas.

The dispute led to a maritime stand-off in April between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal.

Prior to the reports on the supposed Hainan law, China provoked fresh protests by the Philippines and Vietnam by issuing new passports that show a map including its claim to almost all the South China Sea.