MANILA - Beijing has agreed to seek permission from the Philippine government before its warships can pass Philippine waters, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.
The foreign affairs chief said reports that at least 9 Chinese warships had passed Sibutu Strait without informing the Philippine government angered President Duterte, who demanded that China first seek permission.
Locsin said there were 2 issues with the passage of the Chinese warships: 1) the ships seemed to be "going around in circles" and 2) the ships shut off its tracking device.
"Duterte said, he was was really angry, he said: 'They must ask permission before going through our waters,'" Locsin said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
"And then China answered: 'Of course, next time we will ask permission."
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, any foreign vessel may be allowed to cross a coastal state’s territorial waters without notifying the state if they are conducting innocent passage, or movement in a straight path heading back out to sea.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, has said the frequency of entry of these Chinese warships is out of the ordinary, with military commanders saying their movements no longer constitute “innocent passage,” or the expeditious travel through territorial waters out back out to international waters.
Why the secrecy? Lorenzana flags passage of 9 Chinese warships through PH waters
Locsin said it has always been Beijing's position that it wants to be informed about warships passing through their waters.
China, he said, claimed that a storm forced their warships to stay longer in Philippine waters. "We can check if there was a storm of sufficient force that it forced the ships to stay," Locsin said.
He also questioned the move to shut off the ships' tracking devices, saying this was meant to cover the ships' movements.
"I thought we were friends. Now, I don't know if the Americans are our friends but you said you are our friends. All I am asking is permission. On top of which, China also demands permission for vessels passing through. Now we are in agreement," he added.