PHL won’t stamp visas on China’s new e-passports

(Updated 8:32 p.m.) The Philippine government on Wednesday said it will not stamp entry visas on new Chinese passports bearing the controversial nine-dash line map delineating China's territorial claims in the West Philippine (South China) Sea. The nine-dash line covers nearly the entirety of the sea, including areas that are well within Philippine territory and several disputed islands.

Philippine immigration authorities will instead stamp a separate visa application form, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. This will be done “to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the nine-dash-line claim of China," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a text message. The move follows the news that Vietnamese border guards have been refusing to stamp entry visas on the controversial new passports.

“Vietnam has said the computer-chipped passports violate its sovereignty and has demanded Beijing withdraw the documents, which show the contested Paracel and Spratly Islands as Chinese territory,” said Agence France-Presse in a report.

At an earlier briefing in Malacañang, Lacierda had said Immigration employees would temporarily recognize the controversial passports. But in his text message later, Lacierda said the inter-agency task force assigned to determine the country's course of action on the matter had recommended the move to stop stamping the e-passports with the new Chinese map. "DFA will inform us [of] its effectivity as DFA is preparing for an early implementation of the aforementioned action," he said. The DFA also sent China a note verbale explaining its refusal to accept the map indicated in the e-passport. “The Philippines does not accept the validity of the nine-dash lines that amount to an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law,” the letter read in part. “The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain,” it also said. The Philippines and China have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since April.

Both countries are also among six claimants to the Spratly Islands, which China calls Nansha Islands. The other claimants include Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Atr the recent ASEAN Summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, President Benigno Aquino III disputed a statement by summit host and Cambodian Prime Minister and head of the summit that a consensus has been reached within the ASEAN not to internationalize the territorial disputes. The claim would have strengthened China’s position, as they have long advocated one-on-one talks with other claimant nations on the territorial issue. — with a report by Michaela del Callar/VS/BM, GMA News