Philippines to stop stamping on new Chinese passport

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MANILA (Updated 6:43 p.m.) -- The Philippines is set to follow the initiative of Vietnam in refusing to stamp its visas on the controversial Chinese e-passport, which bears a map inclusive of the area that is supposedly part of the Philippine territory and maritime domain.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that its latest decision is part of the effort to underscore the country's protest against the inclusion of the nine-dash line map in the Chinese e-passport.

"This action is being undertaken to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the nine-dash line every time a Philippine visa is stamped on such Chinese e-passport," said the DFA.

Instead, the DFA said, the Philippine government will stamp its visas on a separate visa application form.

"We are preparing for an early implementation of the aforementioned action," the agency added.

China's new passports have stirred up existing territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors including India. The map also features disputed areas with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

The Philippines had already sent a note verbale to the Chinese government protesting the inclusion of the Philippine territory in its passport's new design.

According to the DFA, the move to stop visa stamping on the Chinese e-passport only "reinforces" the said protest.

"The Philippines views said expansive nine-dash claim as inconsistent with international law, specifically Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," said the DFA.

Earlier, Vietnam announced its decision not to stamp the travel documents of incoming Chinese nationals bearing the controversial map.

Meanwhile, Philippines is backing the plan of the United States to discuss with China the controversy on its newly-issued passports.

The US said it will not endorse China's e-passport as it causes "tension and anxiety between and among the states in the South China Sea."

The US added that the new passports were "not helpful" to the environment all nations seek to resolve the issues concerning the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

"It is something that we welcome, the decision made by the United States to discuss this with China," said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday.

Lacierda said the DFA has created an inter-agency task force to look into the new diplomatic issue.

For her part, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the Philippines has the right to deny entry a Chinese whose passport bears a map that clearly opposes the Philippine claim to the West Philippine Sea.

"If they bear that kind of passport, we will be acting well within our rights to deny them admission into our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self-deported upon arrival at the airport. They should take the next flight out of the country if they can afford to do so," she told reporters.

The senator, a known expert in international law, however said the new passports do not amount to acceptance of their claim to the resource-rich sea.

"It will not constitute proof that it has already accepted the opposing claim of sovereignty of China so it is not a binding act in the part of the state, but it is better if we articulate by means of our rejection at our borders of their nationals that we are offended by their action," she said.

On Thursday, members of Akbayan party-list will hold a protest outside the Chinese Consular Office in Makati City against the controversial passports.

Saying that China's latest move is preposterous, the group will bring enlarged Chinese passports stamped with internet slang LOL (laughing out loud) and LMAO (laughing my ass off) as well as Filipino slang "weh" and "d nga" to highlight the absurdity of the nine-dash line claim.

Lacierda said the Philippines will continue to insist its position, as he expressed the belief that putting a new map on China's revised passport would not affect the country's claim in the West Philippine Sea.

"Our position has been amplified by the President in Asean (summit) and we see no reason why it should weaken our position," he said.

He likewise believed that the new diplomatic issue with China will not affect the country's tourism industry although many foreign tourists arriving in the country come from China.

He noted that the Philippines also has huge number of tourists coming from other countries such as South Korea. (HDT/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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