Manila won’t file suit vs China over coast guard law — envoy

THE PHILIPPINES won’t sue China at an international tribunal after it passed a law allowing its coast guard to fire against foreign vessels in the South China Sea, according to its top diplomat.

The country risks reopening a lawsuit that it won against China in 2016, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday.

“I’m not going back there because the Coast Guard Law has some claims as to the extent of their territory,” he said. “That will reopen the arbitral award and I’m not going to give them a chance to do that.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio was reported to have said the government should sue China at the United Nations (UN) Permanent Court of Arbitration for passing the law.

“Chinese diplomacy has been very effective in most of the members of the United Nations and I’m not going to throw our victory into that and let them decide,” Mr. Locsin said.

The tribunal in 2016 favored the Philippines in a lawsuit that rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on its nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map.

China has rejected the ruling but continues to negotiate with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations to come up with a code of conduct.

Mr. Locsin last month tweeted that he had filed a diplomatic protest against China after it passed the law that he said was “a verbal threat of a war to any country that defies the law.”

He said China might apply the law in areas that it claims, which appears to be “a threat of war.”

“There is no exact delineation of jurisdiction in the law according to them, but what if there is? There could be. So my protest stands,” Mr. Locsin said.

He said there had been no incidents at sea since China passed the law. “If there is an incident, I can assure you, there will be more than just a protest.”

The Chinese Embassy in a statement early this month said there were “many false accusations” against China over the new law.

It said the law is a “normal domestic legislative activity” and conforms to international conventions and practices.

It said that the law is not unique to China, “but a sovereign right to all” and does not target any certain country. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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