MANILA, Philippines—A new law plucked by China and allowing its coast guard to use violent force on foreign ships in waters it claims raises the risks of miscalculation, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday (Feb. 8).
“I’m very concerned about this law because it might cause miscalculations and accidents there, especially now that they are now allowed to fire at foreign vessels,” Lorenzana said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
The China Coast Guard, he said, operates in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, part of the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea, where the Philippine navy and coast guard also patrol.
“The chances of accident or miscalculation [are] great, and so I call upon all claimants there, Chinese, Vietnamese to exercise caution and carefulness in implementing their laws,” Lorenzana said.
He said the Philippines would discuss with its allies, including the United States, and other claimants, how to handle the situation.
“But the Americans, even without consulting us or other claimants, continue on patrolling the area,” Lorenzana said.
“I’m sure that the Chinese are also concerned about these patrols in like manner that the Americans are very concerned about the creeping influence of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
More countries outside the region, like the United Kingdom, Australia and India, are also planning to patrol the disputed waters to carry out freedom of navigation operations. Lorenzana said the Philippine government would continue engaging with these third parties “to find ways to move forward.”
The Philippine government last January filed a diplomatic protest against the new Chinese law, which was seen as “a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law which, if unchallenged, is submission to it.”
The Chinese embassy in Manila, however, jeered at the expressions of concern, saying the new law was part of “normal legislative activity of China” and does not target any country.