|A woman holds a Chinese passport, displaying a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China (L, top) and a picture of Beijing's Tiananmen Square (bottom), at an office in Wuhan airport, Hubei province, November 23, 2012. The Philippines and Vietnam condemned Chinese passports containing a map of China's disputed maritime claims on Thursday, branding the new design a violation of their sovereignty. REUTERS/Stringer
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said China should remove a new map in its passports, which mark disputed waters as Chinese territory.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario issued the statement after being asked to react to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman's statement that other countries "should not read too much into the map."
"If that is the case, what they should do is remove the imprint of the South China Sea in their passport," he told ANC's Headstart.
The Philippines and Vietnam have condemned the new microchip-equipped passports, saying the map they incorporate violates their national sovereignty by marking disputed waters as Chinese territory.
"This obviously is an excessive claim and in violation of international law, specifically UNCLOS," del Rosario said.
The DFA chief said it has already filed a diplomatic protest before Beijing and then followed it up by refusing to stamp visas in the new passports.
Instead, all exit and entry visas will be stamped on a separate visa application form and attached to the Chinese passports.
"We are saying, 'That's fine. You can come into the Philippines but we will not stamp the passports, which has this imprint,'" he said.
"We want to make sure that we are not endorsing that which we are protesting," he added.
He also noted that India has gone one step further by stamping its own map onto visas issued to Chinese visitors as the map shows the disputed border areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of Chinese territory.
Asked if the Philippines will do the same, he replied: “Not yet.”
He also said the decision of the US government to raise the issue of the passports is "merely trying to bring out the fact that this action of China raises tension."
"Obviously we want to be able to control tension in order to sustain stability in the region," he said.
The South China Sea is strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources.
Other claimants to parts of the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. With Agence France-Presse