MANILA — The Philippines will "assert all its rights", as proven by its diplomatic protest against a new China law that allowed its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and tear down structures that other countries built on contested waters, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, illegal fishermen should only post bail, and cannot be arrested, much less fired at. The Palace welcomes the foreign affairs department's diplomatic protest against the new China law, said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"This will prove that the Philippines is fully committed to the rule of law, and will assert all its rights available under existing principles of international law to defend its interests ," he told reporters in an online briefing.
He cited the protest in rejecting the call of Sen. Risa Hontiveros for Malacañang to "denounce" China's reported recent harassment of a fisherman in Philippines-occupied Pag-asa island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.
"Hindi naman po dapat diktahan ni Senadora Hontiveros ang ating Presidente, at hindi na niya kinakailangan sabihin kung anong gagawin ng Presidente," Roque said.
(Senator Hontiveros does not need to dictate on our President, and she need not say what the President should do.)
"But we will protect and secure the Philippines national interest. And detalye po (the details), we leave it to the Department of National Defense, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Philippine Coast Guard, he said.
The maritime issue will have no effect on negotiation for the Philippines to get Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines, Roque said.
"Ibang usapin naman ang bakuna. Ang bakuna po is actually humanitarian act of the entire planet earth in response to a humanitarian disaster," he said.
(The vaccine is a different issue. The vaccine is actually a humanitarian act of the entire planet earth in response to a humanitarian disaster.)
China continues to disregard a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated its historical claim over almost the entire South China Sea.
China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have competing claims in the resource-rich waterways.