Lorenzana: Navy setting protocol on entry of foreign vessels
MANILA, Philippines — The Navy is preparing a set of protocols to govern foreign vessels that intrude into Philippine waters without permission, including Chinese warships whose repeated unannounced presence has been an “irritant,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Lorenzana said the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) would identify steps to deal with the unauthorized entry of foreign vessels in the country’s territorial seas, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive requiring these ships to seek clearance before passing through.
“The Navy is now preparing SOPs on what to do when there are intrusions,” Lorenzana said at a hearing of the House appropriations committee, which was deliberating on his department’s proposed P189-billion budget for 2020.
“Before, we didn’t have any basis to accost these ships, but recently the President announced they must ask for permission first,” the defense chief said in reply to a question posed by Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor.
The President issued the order after Lorenzana reported that five Chinese warships had been spotted sailing without notice through Sibutu Strait near Tawi-Tawi province since July.
The Chinese warships had been observed in the area at least four other times from February to June, prompting a diplomatic protest by the Philippines.
Sibutu Strait is an international waterway located near Tawi-Tawi within Philippine archipelagic and territorial waters.
Foreign commercial ships have the right of innocent passage when passing through the country’s territorial waters, but foreign warships should at least inform Philippine authorities beforehand.
Lorenzana told the House panel that other foreign navies had been observed passing through the country’s waters, but they routinely sought permission.
“They inform us. They need not seek permission, but they inform us,” he said.
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