MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines must turn away visitors from China carrying new passports with a map that covers disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Wednesday.
Santiago called China's issuing of the new passports "an affront to Philippine sovereignty" amid ongoing territorial disputes involving it, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries.
Santiago, a former chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, called on the secretaries of foreign affairs and justice to discuss the possibility of refusing entry to Chinese citizens carrying the new passports.
"If they bear that kind of passport, we will be acting well within our rights to deny them admission to our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self-deported upon arrival at the airport. They should take the next flight out of the country if they can afford to do so," she told reporters.
Santiago said the Philippines, despite being inferior to China terms of military might, must assert its sovereignty over its territories.
She stressed that international law supports the Philippines' territorial claims.
"It is better if we articulate by means of our rejection at the border of their nationals that we are offended at their action. We consider it provocative. We consider it an act of aggression," Santiago said. "And we shall resist it as far as possible under international law."
The Philippines has sent a note verbale to China in protest of the new passport. Vietnam, another South China Sea claimant country, is now refusing to stamp the new passports, and instead issues visas on separate pieces of paper.
Santiago said the Philippines must send a clear message to China.
"We want to say, 'Stop doing that, you're in my territory. This is terra firma Philippines,'" she said.
For Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, the new Chinese passports are no big deal.
He believes there's no need to refuse citizens carrying them entry to the Philippines. Enrile said accepting the passports does not mean giving up the Philippines' claims over the West Philippine Sea.
"They can even wear their own flag if they want. So what? They can even include the map of China in their dress. So what?" he said.