South China Sea row endangers Philippines maritime industry: Expert

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine maritime sector can be "very seriously affected" if China continues to assert its "indisputable sovereignty" in the South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim, a maritime law expert said Friday.

Jay Batongbacal, Director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS), said during a forum Friday that jobs in the Philippine maritime sector faced threats from China's aggressiveness in the disputed territory.

"The way that China is asserting sovereignty in the South China Sea [through the nine-dash line], the logical effect is that they can decide to not allow seafarers to cross the South China Sea then you would all be out of jobs," Batongbacal said before students from Maritime schools.

"There are so many practical implications on the loss of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea," he said. "Definitely, the maritime industry of the Philippines, all of Asia, will be very, very seriously affected."

China has maintained control over large portions of the South China Sea including parts of the West Philippine Sea despite protests and an ongoing arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

The Philippines provides around 375,000 sailors to the world's shipping industry.

Luis Cruz, Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said that the situation in the South China Sea with regards to freedom of navigation could become a "dangerous situation."

"If China decides they have the right to interdict vessels who do not get permission from them, they can intercept international carriers and naval vessels which is a dangerous situation," he said in an interview following the forum.

Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea where China was previously spotted conducting reclamation activities in several reefs - believed to be a precursor to the construction of military bases.