President Rodrigo Duterte has finally acted on reports of Chinese vessels passing through Philippine waters without permission, saying they must now give advance notice or be dealt with “in an unfriendly manner.”

“To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage,” a Palace statement said.

“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” it added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had complained over the unauthorized passage of Chinese vessels near Tawi-Tawi and Palawan provinces to Beijing’s envoy, Zhao Jianhua, welcomed the president’s directive.

“I am still trying to figure out what unfriendly manner we can do but that is a very good development because now we have some authority to enforce our laws within our territorial waters,” Lorenzana told reporters at South Harbor in Manila, where he received a navy vessel donated by South Korea.

The defense chief declined to comment on reports that a Chinese coast guard vessel had been spotted near Ayungin Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Lorenzana said he had yet to meet again with Zhao to discuss the passage of Chinese vessels.

Lorenzana had also raised concern over a proposal to build Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) manned by Chinese workers near military facilities, saying these could easily switch to espionage.

“I’m going to discuss that with the [Cabinet economic] cluster and maybe discuss it with the Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.)…because these, the POGO operations, are bringing us substantial amount of money, are we willing to lose those POGOs? It depends. We will explore and study some more before we can make the recommendation,” he

Chinese, Vietnamese vessels

On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante, spokesman of the military’s Western Command in Palawan, said a Chinese coast guard ship and Vietnamese fishing vessels had been spotted at Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal.

“We monitored the presence of one Chinese Coast Guard and Vietnamese [fishing vessels] in Ayungin….The Chinese Coast Guard vessel has been circling the area,” he said in a phone interview.

“This Chinese Coast Guard [vessel], we monitored it since Aug. 1 and it’s moving from one place to another. Their purpose is monitoring,” he added.

Twenty-seven Chinese fishing vessels have also been spotted near Panata Island.

“In Panata, there are also Chinese fishing vessels…There are 27 Chinese fishing vessels at Panata…That’s as of [Monday],” Penetrante said. (