Experts dispel Philippines’ malicious misinterpretation of China’s new CCG regulations
Published: May 18, 2024 08:34 PM
Cartoon: Liu Rui/GT

Cartoon: Liu Rui/GT

The Philippine media associated the promulgation of China's regulations on administrative law-enforcement procedures of Coast Guard agencies (hereafter referred to as Procedures) with Philippine "local fishermen" engaging in provocations in the surrounding waters of China's Huangyan Dao. 

Chinese experts on Saturday slammed the interpretation, saying that these Filipino media outlets deliberately sensationalized and distorted the issue, maliciously slandered the Procedures, exposing ulterior motives and a guilty conscience. 

The promulgation of the Procedures is aimed at maintaining the order of normal economic activities at sea, and fishermen from China and other countries are treated equally before the regulations.

Philippine media linked the release of the Procedures with local fishermen's recent trespassing into waters near Huangyan Dao. The Philippine government has dispatched coast guard ships to escort this so-called "civilian fleet," yet claimed the fishermen's actions had "nothing to do with the Philippine government." The organizers loudly proclaimed their actions to be "civilian" and "peaceful."

The newly released Procedures have 16 chapters and 281 clauses, including general principles, jurisdiction, on-site supervision and inspection, case filing, investigation and evidence collection, hearing procedures, administrative enforcement decisions, and so forth. It is the basic norm for maritime law-enforcement agencies to carry out administrative law-enforcement work.

But the Philippines ignored that the Procedures stipulated that law enforcement should be based on facts and guided by the law, the principles of legitimacy, fairness, openness, and timeliness, respecting and safeguarding human rights, and protecting the dignity of citizens. Instead, they only focused on the clause that allowed for the detention of foreigners suspected of violating border control rules under certain circumstances. The Procedures also stated that foreign citizens violating border control rules, whose suspicion of certain violations cannot be ruled out after questioning, can be detained with the approval of Coast Guard personnel in charge.

These violations include suspected illegal border crossing; assisting others in illegal border crossing; illegal residence and employment; and activities that endanger national security and interests, disrupt public order, or involve other illegal criminal activities. 

Ding Duo, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Law and Policy at the China Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times on Saturday that the malicious linking  of the Chinese measures with a recent incident involving Filipino ships intruding into the waters near China's Huangyan Dao by the Philippine media, as well as the irresponsible speculations and distortions they made, have inflated confrontational emotions among Filipinos. 

"The deliberate hype, intentional distortion, and even malicious smearing are for ulterior motives, reflecting the Philippines' provocative yet guilty conscience, aiming to mislead international public opinion, divert public attention, and hype the 'China threat theory,'" Ding said. 

The Procedures stipulated general rules and does not target Huangyan Dao or Ren'ai Jiao that have become hotspots due to US and Philippine hype, nor does it target any specific actions, Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the same institute, told the Global Times. Instead, it aims to regulate coast guard practices in law enforcement, specify the procedures and better manage maritime production and other activities, which is also an international norm, Chen said. 

China enacted the Coast Guard Law in 2021, the China Coast Guard issued two regulations on handling criminal cases in 2023, along with releasing new regulations on procedures recently. Ding sees these actions as advancements in the rule of law in specific fields and as enhancements to comprehensive marine governance domestically.

The Procedures provide clear and practicable norms and will make maritime law enforcement and the entire case handling process more authoritative, standardized, and professional, Ding believes. 

Regarding Huangyan Dao, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on May 15 that Huangyan Dao has always been China's territory, China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters. 

China made a goodwill arrangement in 2016 for Filipino fishermen to fish with a small number of small fishing boats in the adjacent waters of Huangyan Dao, while China continues to oversee and monitor the relevant activities of the Filipino fishermen in accordance with law, Wang said. 

Chen said that as long as there is infringement on China's territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction, China will take necessary measures in accordance with the law.

China's goodwill that allows Filipino fishermen to fish in the waters near Huangyan Dao came with a prerequisite that Filipino fishermen must abide by relevant Chinese laws, regulations and international laws, respect Chinese territorial sovereignty, Chen said.

Chinese or foreign fishermen are treated equally by the laws and regulations, Chen added, citing the example of Chinese fishermen, who will face penalties from the China Coast Guard for violating China's Marine Environmental Protection Law and Fisheries Law if using illegal fishing measures such as blast fishing.

Regarding recent Philippine actions to distort the truth and mislead the public on matters related to the South China Sea, people of insight in the region and the international community can see clearly and will not be fooled by the Philippines' distorted interpretations and malicious hype, Ding noted.