CHINA did not violate international law when a navy ship entered Philippine waters without permission on Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday evening.

“The hinese naval vessel’s sailing through Philippine waters was an exercise of the right of innocent passage pursuant to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” according to a transcript of Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s news briefing posted on the agency’s website.

“The Chinese passage was safe and standard, and consistent with international law and international practice. We hope relevant parties can view it in an objective and rational manner,” he added.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over its navy’s intrusion in the Sulu Sea.

The vessel had reached the Cuyo Group of Islands in Palawan province and Apo Island in Mindoro, it said in a statement. Philippine Navy vessel BRP Antonio Luna challenged the ship, which responded by saying it was exercising innocent passage.

China violated international law when People’s Liberation Army Navy electronic reconnaissance ship ignored orders from the Philippine Navy for them to leave immediately, Foreign Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Gonar B. Musor told reporters via WhatsApp on Monday.

DFA said its movements did not follow a track that could be considered continuous and expeditious, lingering in the Sulu Sea for three days.

In 2019, a Chinese aircraft carrier, the CV-16 Liaoning, had also passed through the Philippines’ Sibutu Passage — a narrow sea lane between the main island of Tawi-Tawi and Sibutu Island — without notice.

In April, DFA summoned Mr. Huang due to the lingering presence of Chinese ships around the Whitsun Reef, locally known as Julian Felipe, and other maritime zones of the country.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio had called the Chinese out for its double standard, saying it was ironic that in their country, the right of innocent passage could only be exercised with prior notice, but the same regard was not given to its neighbors.

He was referring to China’s repeated acts of driving away vessels and planes passing through territories in the South China Sea that it claims.

A United Nations-backed tribunal in 2016 rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1940s map. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan