Wary of sanctions, China won’t double down on trespass rule – expert

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BLOCKED. A much larger vessel of the China Coast Guard blocks the path of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Malabrigo during a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal on June 30, 2023. China says it will detain for up to 60 days foreign trespassers who will cross what it claims are its borders in the West Philippine Sea effective June 15, 2024. (Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – It would not be rational for China to fully commit on enforcing its anti-trespassing rule in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as doing so may affect Beijing’s public standing and trigger sanctions that will hurt its economy, an expert said Monday.

China has empowered its own Coast Guard to detain for up to 60 days without trial foreign trespassers who will cross what it claims are its borders, including those overlapping in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) which are within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

China’s unilateral rule reportedly took effect on June 15.

Political analyst Dr. Froilan Calilung said China may think twice in enforcing its self-imposed maritime rule as it may produce “massive international condemnation” that may affect its image and economy.

“I firmly believe that China, though medyo alam naman natin may pagka-bully talaga itong bansa na ito, naniniwala ako na mayroon pa rin siyang (I firmly believe that China, though it has a tendency to bully its way, I believe this nation still has an) international image,” Calilung said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing.

“Mayroon siyang (It still maintains an) international image that’s somehow she’s also trying to protect not only from a political and military standpoint but more importantly from economic perspective,” he added.

Nonetheless, Calilung acknowledged that China’s declaration has a chilling effect, especially on Filipino fishers in the WPS.

“Hindi ma-iaalis ang takot at pangamba (We cannot discount fear and alarm), and right now, I think, many of our fishermen are already feeling it,” he said.

That’s why, Calilung said, it’s important for the Philippines to continue its “confidence building measures,” citing the patrol operations of the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Coast Guard.

In 2016, the Philippines won a landmark international arbitration case against China, invalidating its ambitious nine-dash line claim that owns the entire South China Sea, a court decision Beijing has vehemently refused to acknowledge. (PNA)

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