Teodoro takes swipe at China’s new trespass rule: ‘Roguish, irresponsible threat’

Gilberto Teodoro.jpg
Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. graces the 126th Philippine Navy anniversary at the Navy's headquarters in Manila on May 24, 2024. (Photo by Noel Pabalate / MANILA BULLETIN)

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. did not mince words when he spoke on Friday, May 24, about China’s new regulation in the South China Sea which empowers its coast guard to arrest “trespassers” in maritime areas it claims as its own.

Speaking at the 126th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Manila, Teodoro said such rule was “roguish” and an “irresponsible threat” on the part of Beijing.

“We live in a world of disinformation and malign information. Is this a provocation? No. I believe what a provocation is is the roguish and irresponsible threat to detain quote, unquote trespassers in what is claimed as internal waters but is actually part of the high seas and part of the West Philippine Sea by our country,” he said in a rousing speech.

“This, we cannot allow to continue,” he added.

According to reports which surfaced last week, China has allowed its coast guard to detain foreign nationals who illegally enter the areas they claim in the South China Sea from 30 to 60 days even without a trial. It will reportedly take effect in June.

The new measure was announced after civil society group “Atin Ito” trooped to Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal) to establish civilian presence there, install floating markers, and distribute supplies and fuel to Filipino fishermen who lost their livelihood due to China’s persistent blockade operations.

Teodoro said such rule was a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the United Nations (UN) Charter which lay upon each member-state to refrain from using threat, force or aggression to enforce what the defense chief regarded as “illegal territorial claims” in the maritime domain.

Both the Philippines and China are signatories to UNCLOS and charter members of the UN.

“That is a provocation in so far as I am concerned,” Teodoro said.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin earlier downplayed the protest lobbied by the Philippines with regards to the new regulation as he insisted that there is nothing to worry about as long as foreigners entering their territorial waters are not doing anything illegal.

"The regulations are rolled out by China Coast Guard to standardize the administrative law-enforcement procedures of Coast Guard agencies and better uphold order at sea," he said.

Meanwhile, PN Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. lauded the dedication and resilience of PN personnel in overcoming challenges, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, and their steadfast commitment to their duties.

"Through the years, the need to safeguard our sovereignty and sovereign rights, protect our maritime interests, and ensure the safety and security of our waters and our people remains the common denominator that unites our all efforts," he noted.


Even before China announced the new regulation, Teodoro said that the DND has already ramped up the capacity-building measures of the PN so it would be better equipped to defend the country’s territorial waters.

This, he said, was in adherence to President Marcos Jr.’s instruction to him to “help steward the evolution of the Philippine Navy as a potent deterrent force.”

“The evolution of the Philippine Navy is not geared solely towards naval power but as a component of joint defense and military power to create a credible and strong deterrent force in order to protect our sovereign rights, our sovereignty and our territorial integrity,” the defense chief said.

He also mentioned the development and operationalization of the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC) which seeks to defend the country’s maritime territory and use all the marine resources within it for the benefit of the Filipino people.

“We realize that being a small country with small land areas, with a growing population, we need the resources in our exclusive economic zone and other areas where we have jurisdiction in order to sustain the generation of future Filipinos,” Teodoro said.

“It’s not only a question of freedom of navigation, it is not only a question of simple resource exploitation but a question of sustainability of our countrymen and those who are to be born,” he added.

The PN has increased its maritime cooperative activities and trainings with “like-minded” nations such as the United States, Japan, and Australia to hasten its adaptation to the CADC developed by Teodoro.

Amid the volatile situation in the West Philippine Sea, Teodoro said more is expected from each sailor, marine and civilian personnel of the PN.

“The mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines now and in the future becomes more crucial as our environment becomes more volatile and we will continue not to relax but to demand more and more of each and everyone,” he said.

“That is what you are in uniform for,” he stated.