E-passport printing halted amid sea row

The Department of Foreign Affairs has stopped the production of the newly designed electronic passport (e-passport) with the illustration of the Philippine map due to political sensitivity of the issues with China on the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said that the interagency meeting that evaluated and approved the passport design decided to remove the map because it did not accurately reflect the extent of the Philippine territory as defined in the Constitution.

Jose said the DFA has not yet issued the new passport under the new e-passport system.

In a text message, Jose said that those existing Philippine passports will remain valid until their date of expiry.

The newly designed Philippine passports were supposed to be issued next month but were canceled after the interagency decided to remove the Philippine map inserted on the right face of the Philippine eagle.

The new e-passport features the lyrics of the national anthem and illustrations of tourist spots like the Banaue rice terraces, Jose Rizal statue, and the Philippine eagle on its pages. The DFA has earlier said that they had to remove the map because it is politically sensitive.

The new security features such as the Intaglio secure printing technology are in line with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Technology of the United Nations.

The Philippines filed a legal challenge to China's claim before an arbitration court in The Hague, Netherlands to try to declare Beijing's assertion as illegal. A final ruling is expected to be release May this year.

China stakes a claim on practically the entire South China Sea, citing ancient maps and historical records to back its claim, an assertion which Philippine officials say does not hold water under modern-day international laws.

The DFA said that China has rapidly transformed formerly submerged rock features in the waters into artificial islands, a move that has triggered serious concerns among nations, including the United States and Japan.

The resource-rich waters is home to a chain of more than 100 islands, shoals, reefs and coral outcrops and straddles one of the world's most vital sea lanes.

Apart from the Philippines and China, other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims over the vast WPSea.

Source: The Standard

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