The presence of China’s jammers of telecommunication signals in the Ayungin Shoal, which lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is threatening the security of Filipino soldiers patrolling the country’s shores, a lawmaker said on Friday.
Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, was referring to the May 3 incident in Ayungin Shoal when Philippine military planes were forced to navigate on their own after communication channels went dead while they hovered over the EEZ as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos). The Philippine crew heard conversations in the Chinese language on their communication devices at that time.
China is disputing the Philippines’ sovereignty claims over the latter’s EEZ area in the West Philippine Sea, and is claiming the whole West Philippine Sea and the islands in the Yellow Sea based on what they claim to be Chinese maps that overlap the EEZ claims of other countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.
“China’s use of jamming devices imperils the lives of civilians aboard private and commercial planes since it affects the transmission of information crucial for navigation. It also breaches the right of people to travel. China, as a member of the United Nations (UN) and more so as a member of the UN Security Council, should learn to respect the rights of people to life, liberty, security and movement,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
China has been increasingly aggressive in its pursuit of control over the resources-rich islands in the West Philippine Sea in the past two years. Just this week, 11 Chinese manning a ship carrying 400 sea turtles were nabbed by Philippine authorities for poaching in Hasa-Hasa Shoal, West Philippine Sea.
The Hasa-Hasa shoal is just 50 kilometers away from Philippine shores and is within the country’s EEZ under the Unclos.
The Philippines has brought its conflicting claims with China over certain West Philippine Sea islands before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas, but China has repeatedly refused to recognize international arbitration.
Instead of being on the offensive, Gatchalian urged China to shun brute force and stick to diplomacy in settling differences over claims.
“Taking the diplomatic route is more effective in determining solutions in such conflicts because economic, political and social ties are kept intact,” Gatchalian added.