Chinese warships are passing through the Balabac Strait at the south of Palawan without giving prior notice to the Philippine government, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio revealed.
In the same way, Carpio said, United States submarines refuse to surface every time they pass through Philippine archipelagic waters.
The former SC justice made these comments as one of the resource persons during the virtual public hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday.
The committee is drafting a bill to define the maritime zones of the Philippines, in compliance with the country’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Unclos is the set of rules for the international community to follow when it comes to conducting activities at sea, including military, economic and environmental protection. It has been the anchor of Philippine claims in asserting its sovereign, territorial and maritime rights over the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio was reacting to the Senate Bill No. 2459 filed by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on the right of innocent passage.
“I suggest that we add reciprocity [on innocent passage],” Carpio said. “I noticed that China, whenever our ships pass through their area, they require prior notice from their warships. But when they pass through our territorial sea on innocent passage, they do not give us prior notice…”
“Every time Chinese warships passes through the Balabac Strait, they do not notify us. But they require us to notify them when we pass through their territorial sea,” Carpio said.
Carpio also suggested that the senators include in the maritime zones bill to require all warships of foreign countries passing through the archipelagic waters to turn on their Automatic Identification System (AIS). The AIS is the transceivers on ships that allow maritime authorities to track their movement at sea.
He cited Chinese warships which also turn off their AIS whenever they pass through the Balabac Strait.
Carpio also suggested that submarines passing through archipelagic waters must “surface” and not travel underwater.
“They must show themselves. The Americans don’t want to surface. They must surface if they want to exercise innocent passage,” he added.