Lorenzana: China’s planned air defense zone in West PH Sea breaks rules

JC Gotinga
'It is my fervent hope that China would not proceed with this planned action for the continued peace and stability in the entire South China Sea,' says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

TAKE OFF. A fighter jet takes off from the American carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Philippine Sea on May 26, 2020. Handout photo from the US Navy

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said China’s reported plan to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, violates the rules-based order, and that Beijing should desist from it.

“It is my fervent hope that China would not proceed with this planned action for the continued peace and stability in the entire South China Sea,” Lorenzana said in a media statement on Thursday, June 25.

An ADIZ in the South China Sea means China would monitor and control all air traffic above it. China would require aircraft from other countries to identify themselves and seek permission before proceeding, as though it owned that airspace.

Lorenzana said this would go against the rules-based order set by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), under which a Hague tribunal affirmed in a July 2016 ruling the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea – the West Philippine Sea.

“First, an ADIZ by China over the entire South China Sea would arrogate unto itself a vast sea considered to be a global commons that has been open for millennia to all for navigation and fishing,” Lorenzana said.

“Second, it violates the exclusive economic rights of littoral states over their EEZs under the UNCLOS of which China was a signatory,” he added. The littoral states in this case are countries with coastlines bordering the South China Sea.

“Third, a lot of countries will treat this ADIZ as illegal and violative of international laws. They would continue to use these waters and airspace, and thus would further raise an already heightening tension and could result in mishaps or miscalculations at sea and in the air,” the defense chief said.

Lorenzana was stating his agreement with the earlier statement of US Pacific Air Force (PACAF) commander General Charles Brown Jr on China’s planned ADIZ. (READ: 2 US carrier strike groups hold drills in Philippine Sea amid China airspace control fears)

“If [China] were to claim an ADIZ in the South China Sea…. It really goes against the rules-based international order, and that’s concerning not only for PACAF and the United States, but I would say many of the nations in the region,” Brown told reporters in a phone briefing on Wednesday, June 24.

On May 31, the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing plans to establish an ADIZ over the South China Sea covering the Paracel and Spratly Islands. The Philippines has a sovereignty claim over a portion of the Spratlys it calls the Kalayaan Island Group, including the civilian inhabited Pag-asa or Thitu Island. (WATCH: Upgrades on Pag-asa Island continue as Chinese militias prowl its waters)

China’s military installations on several reclaimed reefs in the area include radar stations and missile capabilities. In recent years, the Chinese military stationed on these artificial islands have routinely issued radio challenges to passing Philippine aircraft and ships, causing tension and making access to parts of the West Philippine Sea difficult for Filipinos.

Lorenzana recently visited Pag-asa island to inaugurate a newly constructed beaching ramp that would enable further upgrades to the islet to allow for a larger, more consistent Filipino military and civilian presence in the West Philippine Sea. –

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.