NONTHABURI, Thailand - The alleged harassment of a Liberian-flagged commercial vessel by a “Chinese naval ship” near Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is “not a concern” for the Philippines, Malacañang said on Sunday.
This was despite the commercial vessel being manned by Filipino seafarers and Bajo de Masinloc being within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.
“It’s not our concern, because it’s not a Philippine vessel,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
“For as long as they do not touch the Philippine ship or vessel, it would be the concern of that country that carries the flag of that particular vessel,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told China to follow international maritime laws "if it wants to earn the respect of the international community".
“I agree. And I think, China should agree because China itself says that we should respect international law,” Panelo told the media after President Rodrigo Duterte attended the ASEAN-China Summit in Thailand.
During the summit, the President said freedom of navigation and overflight should be observed in the South China Sea. He also called on all South China Sea claimants to exercise self-restraint and refrain from undertaking activities that heighten uncertainty and instability on the disputed waters.
Duterte said land reclamation, militarization, and paramilitary actions in the South China Sea erode trust and confidence among concerned parties and exacerbate tensions in the area.
“I think the Chinese Premier is in accord. He gives the same rules-based recognition of international law,” Panelo said.
Duterte also pushed for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes, as he called for the immediate conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, that is consistent with international laws.
The ASEAN hopes the COC will be completed within a three-year timeline or earlier.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China is ready to work with Southeast Asian countries to advance the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
“We stand ready to work with ASEAN countries building on the existing foundation and the basis to strive for new progress," he said during the ASEAN-China Summit.
Panelo does not see the recent Scarborough Shoal incident getting in the way of the COC negotiations.