The Philippines is protesting China's enactment of a law that allows its Coast Guard to use force in disputed waters, which Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said amounted to a "verbal threat of war."
Locsin said he filed the diplomatic protest "after reflection" and that his Twitter announcing the move was crafted with "aching precision."
"While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one -- given the area involved or for that matter the open South China Sea -- is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it," he said.
The new law will imperil Filipino fishermen who have had encounters with the Chinese Coast Guard many times in the past, said Jay Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea at the UP College of Law, told ANC.
"Message is really is that they are strengthening their coast guard and operations. It's an implied warning that other vessels should follow the coast guard whenever they are accosted," said Batongbacal.
China has refused to recognize a 2016 ruling by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated its vast claims to the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
It has also built artificial islands on reefs and outcrops that are claimed by the Philippines to reinforce its claims.