PH can invoke Mutual Defense Treaty with US after Chinese laser incident — Carpio
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines can invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US) following China’s harassment of Philippine Coast Guard vessel using a “military-grade” laser, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Tuesday.
On February 6, a China Coast Guard (CCG) directed a “military-grade” laser towards a PCG vessel supporting a Philippine Navy rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal, also called Second Thomas Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea.
The incident temporarily impaired the vision of some crew members of the PCG vessel.
According to Carpio, the use of lasers that lead to permanent blindness is a restricted weapon under the 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, of which China and the Philippines are parties.
“Laser weapons can either cause permanent or temporary blindness. If it causes permanent blindness, the laser weapon is outlawed and cannot be used as a weapon by militaries. If it causes only temporary blindness, it can be used as a weapon by militaries,” the former justice said in a statement.
“Thus, the laser weapon, even if it causes only temporary blindness, is still a weapon or an arms that can be used in an attack that qualifies the attack as an armed attack under the Mutual Defense Treaty. The recent use by China’s coast guard of lasers that temporarily blinded Phil coast guard personnel constitutes an armed attack on a Phil public vessel. The Phil can thus invoke the MDT,” he explained.
The Philippines, however, should first coordinate a statement with the US that future use of CCG vessels of laser weapons on Philippine public vessels or aircraft will trigger the MDT operation, said Carpio.
Carpio noted that China’s new coast guard law, which allows the use of force to enforce Beijing’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, violates the United Nations (UN) Charter.
“This in itself violates the UN Charter which outlaws the use of force to settle disputes between states, and mandates that all such disputes be settled peacefully thru negotiation, mediation, arbitration or other peaceful means,” he elaborated.
In China’s defense, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson claimed that the Philippines intruded into its territory, the Ren’ai Reef.
The Philippines has already filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.
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