MANILA, Philippines – “I’m really by nature a hawk so if I draw a line and you cross it, you get it as far as I’m concerned.”
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago called on Philippine authorities to bar from entering the Philippines Chinese citizens carrying passports with a map including disputed territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). The Philippines has issued a verbal note to protest the move.
On Wednesday, November 28, Santiago called on Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to meet to lay down the policy of rejecting those carrying the controversial passports. Minutes after she made the statement, the Foreign Affairs Department announced it will not stamp the passports but instead stamp a separate visa application form.
“That is a direct assault on our sovereignty. That would be considered as an act of aggression,” Santiago told reporters.
But Malacañang said Wednesday that the Chinese are welcome to the Philippines despite the current controversy.
Santiago said refusing entry to the Chinese carrying the passports will be an act of asserting the Philippines’ claims to the territories.
The senator is an expert in international law and was elected as a member of The Hague-based International Criminal Court.
“We cannot prevent China from printing any kind of passport bearing any kind of legend or photograph that it wishes … [but] we have the power, as long as it is Philippine territory, to reject any national wishing to enter our country with a passport that bears a map that clearly opposes the Philippine claim.”
Santiago added that the Philippines should reject Chinese aggression “as far as possible under international law.”
“If they bear that kind of passport, we will be acting well within our rights to deny them admission to our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self-deported upon arrival at the airport. They should take the next flight out of the country if they can afford to do so.”
‘Why go through rigmarole?’
Vietnam, another country which has claims in the South China Sea, has refused to stamp the Chinese passports. Instead, Vietnamese authorities issue visas on a separate piece of paper.
Santiago said there is no need for the Philippines to follow suit.
“Why go through that rigmarole? We don’t want to say, ‘Please stop that. We want to say, ‘Stop doing that. You’re in my territory.’ This is terra firma Philippines,” Santiago said.
The senator clarified though that Vietnam’s use of a separate piece of paper to stamp should not be taken as a concession of the country’s claim to the disputed territory.
“They’re not bound by the admission of those Chinese nationals into an interpretation that will affect them when they argue their case before any international body or agency in an authoritative manner.”
Asked about her suggested “kick and scream” strategy to diplomacy, Santiago said, “Well, kung sa Tagalog pa, mainis na lang sila!” (Let them get annoyed.)
Enrile: Let’s make passport, too
For Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the Chinese passports are not a big issue.
“We can also make a passport, we will include the entire world,” Enrile said in jest.
“To me, it’s not a big deal. I will not bother myself with those kinds of issues.”
The Senate President added that the issue is a matter of diplomatic relations.
“If they have a passport like that, so what? It’s okay. We can also decorate our passport. We can include the entire Pacific area plus some of their areas there so it doesn’t matter.”
“That’s not an admission that we recognize their claim. They can even wear their own flag if they want, so what? They can even include the map of China in their dress, so what?” – Rappler.com