MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines would continue to process visa applications of Chinese nationals carrying e-passports (computer-chipped passports) that contained a map which included the West Philippine Sea and islands being claimed by the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.
“Visa processing for such Chinese e-passport continues its normal course,” DFA Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said in a text message.
Chinese tourists, as well as many businessmen and students from the mainland, are among the top foreign visitors to the Philippines.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday said the DFA issued a note verbale to the Chinese government expressing Manila’s protest over the printing of a map of China that included the disputed territories in the South China Sea, which Manila calls West Philippine Sea, on the newly issued e-passports.
Hernandez said, “We strongly protested the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passports as such image covers an area that is an integral part of the Philippine territory and maritime domain.”
The Akbayan party-list group on Friday said the DFA should not recognize the new Chinese e-passports.
“We must reject these passports outright and refuse to capitulate to the nine-dash claim. The Aquino government must remain steadfast in securing the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
Akbayan said the map on the e-passport was a “direct violation” of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties which calls on all those involved in the dispute to refrain from actions that will complicate and escalate the dispute.
The declaration was signed by member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, and China in 2002.
Also Friday, Taiwan protested after China started issuing new passports with maps that feature two of the island’s most famous scenic spots as part of Chinese territory.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou urged China not to “unilaterally damage the status quo of the hard-fought stability across the Taiwan Strait,” his office said in a statement.
China’s new e-passports are equipped with a map that also covers Sun Moon Lake and Cingshui Cliff, both popular tourist destinations on Taiwan.
The Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top China policy-making body, stressed that Taiwan “is an independent sovereign country”.
“China should recognize the fact that the two sides have ruled separately … and exercise self-restraint when faced with controversies,” the council said.
China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.
China’s new passports also provoked protests from Vietnam for showing various islands in the South China Sea as being in its territory despite overlapping sovereignty claims.
Beijing attempted on Thursday to downplay the diplomatic fallout from the recently introduced passports, with a foreign ministry spokesperson saying the maps were “not made to target any specific country.” With a report from AFP