Philippines Condemns China’s New Policy Against ‘Trespassers’ as Violation of International Law

Manila—China’s new policy of detaining ‘trespassers’ in the waters it claims violates international law, the Philippines said Sunday, expressing “serious concern” over Beijing’s latest move. In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China cannot enforce its own laws within a sovereign state’s territory.

According to Philippines News Agency, “Every sovereign state has the right to formulate and enact laws, including the enforcement of domestic legislation within its jurisdiction,” but added that these same domestic laws cannot be applied nor enforced in the high seas under international law. The DFA emphasized that a state’s domestic laws may not be applied and enforced in the territory, maritime zones, or jurisdiction of other states, nor violate other sovereign states’ rights and entitlements under international law.

The DFA noted that China’s new regulations are based on the 2021 Coast Guard law, which “illegally expanded the maritime law enforcement powers of China’s Coast Guard.” It added that China would be in direct violation of international law if it enforced these new regulations in the waters and maritime features within the disputed 10-dash line, which includes areas of the West Philippine Sea where the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, or in the high seas.

The DFA raised concerns over China’s “Regulations on Administrative Law Enforcement Procedures for Coast Guard Agencies,” which was approved on May 15 and is set to take effect on June 15. The policy reportedly allows the China Coast Guard to detain perceived foreign trespassers for up to 60 days without trial.

This policy follows the “Atin Ito” (This is Ours) Coalition’s civilian convoy to Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc) in the West Philippine Sea from May 15 to 17. The DFA urged China to ensure its legislation complies with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, and the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The DFA reiterated its call for China to comply with international law and desist from actions that undermine peace and stability in the region. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recently described China’s new policy as “completely unacceptable,” stating that the Philippines would take “whatever measures” necessary to protect Filipinos amid escalating tensions in the contested waters.