Philippines mulls next move on new China passports

Posted at 11/27/2012 12:39 AM | Updated as of 11/27/2012 11:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippines officials on Monday said they were considering options in dealing with new Chinese passports containing a map of China's disputed maritime claims, after filing a protest last week.

In the meantime, Foreign Affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said authorities are still accepting the passports as official travel documents of Chinese citizens entering the Philippines.

"Right now until such time that there would be a change in policy, we will be accepting Chinese passports for visa application through the normal course of visa processing," said foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez.

Other countries with territorial disputes with China, have challenged the new passports.

India is stamping its own map on visas it issues to holders of the new Chinese passports. China's new microchip-equipped passports contain a map that marks its claims over disputed waters and also show as its territory two Himalayan regions that India also claims.

The Philippines is still mulling its next move.

"What we can say is we are considering different options as far as follow-up action. I don't know what are those options," Hernandez said.

The map means countries disputing the Chinese claims will have to stamp microchip-equipped passports of countless visitors, in effect acquiescing to the Chinese point of view.

Tricycle driver Michael Javier said his country should stand up to China.

"They do not have the right to add those disputed islands on their passports. We should be the ones adding it to ours because we have a right to those islands. The problem with us is, we prefer to bow down to rich countries to avoid problems. We should fight for what is ours," Javier said.

Others were concerned the disputes could worsen.

"We don't want to a big conflict. Many will get affected," street vendor Nelia Sedilla said.

Stand-offs between Chinese vessels and the Philippine and Vietnamese navies in the South China Sea have become more common as China increases patrols in waters believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.