View Full Version : Will the US defend Philippines if China attacks?

07-27-2012, 10:09 PM
MANILA, Philippines - The US military might not come to the Philippines' aid if Chinese forces attack Filipino ships and claimed territory in the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, international affairs experts have warned.

While the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) requires Manila and Washington to support each other if either of the 2 countries are attacked by a third party, the United States has yet to make a full commitment with regard to the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).**

"The treaty text leaves the extent of US commitments open to interpretation," the ICG said in its latest report on the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

"While the text calls for the US to respond to an armed attack against the Philippines, Manila only received 'vague* assurances' that Washington would uphold the treaty during the Scarborough standoff," the ICG added.

"Furthermore, the US has not confirmed whether the scope of the treaty covers contested territories in the South China Sea," said the Brussels-based organization, which advises governments and world bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank on the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts.

It added that MDT predates the Philippines' territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea, resulting in uncertainties how the US will interpret its application to disputed territories in the event of a conflict.

US neutral in Philippines-China dispute

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier said Washington is neutral in the Philippines-China dispute and is instead focused on ensuring free navigation, unimpeded commerce and stability in the West Philippine Sea.

The ICG also mentioned an analysis of* Asian affairs specialist Thomas Lum, who said in an April 2012 report for the Congressional Research Service that the US does not consider the MDT and subsequent renewals to extend to features in the West Philippine Sea.*

"Some Philippine officials have suggested or sought assurances that the treaty obliges the United States to come to the defense of the Philippines if China were to take disputed territories in the South China Sea by force, while some US interpretations limit US intervention to a foreign military attack on the main Philippine islands or upon Philippine military forces," Lum said.

However, he added, that "the Obama administration has not further specified the circumstances under which the US armed forces would intervene on behalf of the Philippines."

"The Manila Declaration of November 16, 2011, did not lay out specifically the circumstances in which the United States would defend Philippine claims in the South China Sea," he said.

DFA: US will defend Philippines

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has issued an official statement saying the Obama administration, through Clinton, renewed its "commitment to the defense of the Philippines" if China attacks Filipino forces in the Spratly Islands.

Del Rosario also said Clinton, during the "Two Plus Two" meeting between officials of the 2 countries in Washington, D.C. in April this year, "reiterated that the U.S. "reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the mutual defense treaty."

He said even without an actual armed attack against either the Philippines and the U.S., Article III of the MDT allows officials of the 2 countries to discuss threats in the Pacific.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and US President Barack Obama reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, as well as to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, during their bilateral meeting in the White House in June this year.

The White House said Aquino briefed Obama on the situation in the West Philippine Sea during their one-on-one dialogue.*

In a statement issued after their meeting, the US leader pledged Washington's support for the upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the building of a "minimum credible defense posture" for Manila.

Without going into details, Obama said he had discussions with Aquino on various security and military issues, particularly with regard to the US pivot back to Asia, "and reminding everybody that, in fact, the United States considers itself, and is, a Pacific power."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Benigno Aquino take center stage at a lunch she hosted for the Philippine leader in Washington, D.C. in June.
Washington must clarify position

Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies told the National Bureau of Asian Research that Manila has sought clarification from Washington on how the MDT applies to situations in the West Philippine Sea.

"Manila seems to think that the MDT covers contingencies in the area, whereas the US position is that the Spratlys are not covered by the MDT because they were only formally claimed by the Philippines in 1978, 27 years after the treaty was signed. However, under the terms of the MDT, both sides would be obliged to consult if the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) came under attack in the South China Sea," he said.

"Although the United States has given strong rhetorical support to its alliance relationship with the Philippines, in the event of a clash in the South China Sea U.S. military assistance to the AFP would be 'scenario dependent,'" Storey added.

Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, believes that Washington must clarify its position on the MDT with regard to the Philippines-China territorial dispute.

In a May 2012 analysis, "Scarborough Shoal and Safeguarding American Interests," Lohman said previous administrations have issued clear statements on Washington's responsibilities of its ally is attacked.

He said in 1979, US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance confirmed in an official letter to Philippine Foreign Secretary Carlos P. Romulo that the MDT covers an “attack on Philippines armed forces, public vessels or aircraft” even if such attack does not occur in the “metropolitan territory of the Philippines or island territories under its jurisdiction.”

"US Ambassador Thomas Hubbard reaffirmed these assurances in 1999 during deliberations over the U.S.–Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement. He also stated unequivocally that 'the U.S. considers the South China Sea to be part of the Pacific Area.' This position has not changed," Lohman said.

He said the Obama administration must highlight its treaty commitments to the Philippines.

"The US should make clear to [China] officials privately that in the event of an armed PRC attack on Philippine 'public vessels,' the U.S. must invoke its treaty commitment to declare such action 'dangerous to its own peace and safety' and would initiate formal consultations with the Philippines to determine an appropriate course of action. The nature of its response will be dictated by the nature of the attack," Lohman said.

07-29-2012, 11:08 PM
Double post

07-29-2012, 11:08 PM
The US will defend its forward strategic postion in the Pacific font but not specificly the Philiipines at this point. They may not want to operate an additional theater of operation when the Middle East is about to expode into a bigger regional war. If they will engage China, it will start from Syria and Iran. A war wth China, to start in the Pacific, would entail a Chinese reaquisition of their province, Taiwan.

Sam Miguel
10-25-2012, 08:39 AM
Australia backs code of conduct in disputed sea

By Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:25 am | Thursday, October 25th, 2012

CANBERRA, Australia (via PLDT)—The Australian government headed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday joined the Philippines and New Zealand in seeking the adoption of a joint code of conduct for the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to prevent rival territorial claims in the area from leading to armed confrontations.

Gillard congratulated President Benigno Aquino, who arrived here Tuesday night for a three-day state visit, for his administration’s signing a preliminary peace agreement with Muslim insurgents in Mindanao.

Mr. Aquino and Gillard had a bilateral meeting and Philippine and Australian ministers had an expanded bilateral meeting on Wednesday. Both meetings were held in Parliament House.

Australian officials said they wanted stability in the West Philippine Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan dispute territories with China.

During a bilateral meeting with Mr. Aquino on Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key voiced the same position, emphasizing that his country had always favored peace efforts to settle disputes between nations.

“Obviously peace and stability in the South China Sea is critical because Asia is the fastest growing partner of the world and we want to see their growth [there],” Key told reporters at a briefing.

Code discussed

Following the bilateral meeting here in Canberra, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota said the territorial dispute of the Philippines with China in the West Philippine Sea had been discussed during the bilateral meeting with the Australian prime minister and her top officials.

“Australia’s positions on the West Philippine Sea are very clear, and we understand them. And Australia also fully understands the Philippine position on the West Philippine Sea. So there is, I would say, harmony and understanding,” Anota said.

Summarizing the position of Australia, Anota said Australia would not take sides in the territorial issue between Manila and Beijing.

But she said Australia supported “the idea of freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea,” frowned upon the use of force or threat of force to solve the problem and was looking for solution that “must be rules-based, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

“Both sides, of course, want to see an early conclusion of the code of conduct,” Anota said.

US support

The Philippines and Vietnam have been pushing for the adoption of a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The United States supports the Philippines and Vietnam in pressing for a code of conduct to maintain stability and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, home to sea-lanes where half of global cargo moves and where islands, reefs and atolls are believed to be sitting on vast deposits of oil and gas.

Without a code of conduct, any of the claimants could not explore resources in the disputed waters.

Anota said the code of conduct was not a solely Philippine initiative.

“We do contribute to the principles that are involved in the code of conduct,” she said. “But Australia strongly supports Asean’s view, which includes the Philippines, of course, that the code of conduct be concluded as soon as possible.”

Bangsamoro deal

Anota said the code of conduct was discussed at both the bilateral and the expanded bilateral meetings.

In a joint statement issued after their bilateral meeting, Gillard congratulated President Aquino on the signing on Oct. 15 of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao that the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hope to establish by 2016.

“Both leaders hoped the agreement would provide a basis for genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao. They agreed that it would now be important for the agreement to be fully implemented, resulting in significant improvements in the security and prosperity of communities across the southern Philippines,” the statement said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr enunciated the position of the Gillard government, telling an expanded bilateral that the framework agreement was a “role model” for ending secessionist struggles in the region, according to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.

Carandang and Anota joined the expanded bilateral meeting, where select members of the cabinets of both the Philippines and Australia had a wide-ranging discussion of issues of mutual concerns such as defense, maritime security, trade, tourism and sociocultural affairs.

“Absolutely, it was discussed and they were very excited that the Philippine government could reach such a major step in forging something that could be a comprehensive, lasting peace,” Carandang told reporters.

Referring to the numerous developmental and aid projects of Australia, half of which are found in Mindanao, Carandang said:

Supportive of deal

“One of the reasons why they had put so much money into that area is they want to see this conflict resolved, so they were really all praise for our efforts to achieve peace, particularly the framework agreement, and they’re very supportive of the framework agreement and the work that has to be done,” Carandang said.

Australia did not promise new projects or set “new amounts” for aid flowing into war-torn provinces in Mindanao.

“But they have a number of projects are continuing. They seemed very happy with the pace of the projects they are funding,” said Carandang.

Carandang said the accord was a “big issue” for Australia and other regional allies, and for which the Philippines was receiving praises all over the world.

In response to Gillard, the President admitted that much work had to be done in the implementation stage of the framework agreement, Anota said.

Burning issues

The Bangsamoro accord, the proposal to further increase agricultural and diversified high-end exports to Australia, the ratification of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (Sovfa) and the new mining policy under Executive Order No. 79, among other things, were also discussed by both sides.

This was followed by the signing of an air services agreement with Australia, which is a revision of the existing accord.

The details of the new air services agreement have not been made public.

Australian officials also thanked the Philippines for the ratification of the Sovfa, but this was discussed in general terms because details of the joint exercises and training of troops are still currently being ironed out in Manila between officials of both countries, Anota said.

Mango export

The Philippines also pushed for increasing the volume of agricultural and diversified high-end exports to Australia.

“Gillard then announced a recent agreement to extend Australian market access for Philippine mangoes,” the joint statement said.

“This will be welcomed equally by Australian consumers and mango growers in the Philippines,” it said.

Welcome ceremony

President Aquino’s official visit to Australia began Wednesday with a ceremonial welcome before noon at the Government House, where he was accorded a 21-gun salute as he shook hands with the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Quentin Bryce, and her husband, Michael Bryce.

Australian protocol officers here said that this was the first time a visiting head of state was accorded a ceremonial welcome right on the lawn of Government House, which serves as the office of the governor general who is the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

The queen is the head of state of Australia, as Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth.

The governor general hosted a state luncheon in honor of Mr. Aquino at the dining room of the Government House, three hours ahead of the President’s meeting with Gillard at the Parliament House.

Mr. Aquino then laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial and toured select war galleries before sitting down for an interview with an Australian TV journalist.

State dinner

A state dinner hosted by Gillard in his honor ended the day’s official engagement, but the President had to leave early because he said he was not feeling well.

He said this was the case of “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He and Gillard left after delivering their respective speeches, leaving the guests to partake of a three-course meal.

11-09-2012, 09:42 AM
US toxic waste dumped in Subic

Businesses alarmed, prompting probe

12:01 am | Friday, November 9th, 2012

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is investigating a US Navy contractor for allegedly dumping hazardous wastes on Subic Bay last month.

SBMA records showed that wastes dumped by the tanker MT Glenn Guardian were collected from American ships that joined the recently concluded joint military exercises in the country.

The tanker is one of the vessels owned by Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Malaysian company operating in several countries which services American ships in the Philippines.

The allegations of waste dumping in Subic Bay have alarmed locators and environmental organizations in the free port.

Charo Simons, spokesperson of Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, said the waste dumping was “deeply troubling to all of us who want to protect the environment in and around the Subic Bay area.”

“This company has a lot of explaining to do, and the SBMA has a duty to go after this company’s officials if they have endangered not only the environment but also everybody who lives and works here,” Simons said.

On Oct. 15, SBMA Ecology Center personnel inspected Glenn Guardian, then docked at the Naval Supply Depot area here due to a “hazard call” from another free port locator.

A copy of the SBMA spot report showed that the tanker was carrying some 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease), all of which were hauled from Emory Land, a US Navy ship.

On Oct. 16, a team from the Philippine Coast Guard’s marine pollution division, led by PO1 Enrico Viuda, and SBMA Ecology Center personnel boarded Glenn Guardian and another vessel, MT Glenn Enterprise, to take water samples and see whether the liquid waste was safe to be dumped into the sea.

But SBMA sources said Edilberto Acedilla, captain of Glenn Guardian, told the team that the liquid wastes had been dumped at least 37 kilometers (20 nautical miles) from Subic Bay.

An SBMA official involved in the investigation said the Coast Guard had told Acedilla that a permit was necessary since the tankers were dumping water in Philippine territory.

The official, who asked not to be named because of lack of authority to speak to the media, said the Coast Guard and the SBMA Ecology Center had not issued permits to Glenn Defense Marine Asia for the dumping.

High toxicity level

Test results of the water samples conducted by Subic Water and Sewerage Co., the firm contracted by the SBMA to test water samples taken from the vessels, showed that the level of toxicity of the liquid wastes exceeded the norm and went beyond levels set by international marine pollution conventions.

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said the results “confirmed that [Glenn Defense Marine Asia] did not treat the waste, which it should have.”

“There are treatment plants in Central Luzon, where the wastes should have been brought first before they dumped them,” he said.

Garcia added that although the Glenn Guardian captain claimed that the wastes were dumped in the West Philippine Sea, “they should have treated these first because that contained oily waste.”

Show cause letter

Garcia said the SBMA Ecology Center had issued a “show cause” letter to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, asking the company to explain the waste dumping that was supposedly done without proper permits.

The company, through its lawyers, sent the SBMA a reply on Nov. 6 and said the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, not the government agency administering this free port, has jurisdiction over it.

Glenn Defense Marine Asia has been servicing vessels in Subic Bay since 2009, according to records. This year alone, 37 US Navy ships were serviced by the company and part of its service is to collect tons of liquid wastes from these ships.

Retired vice admiral

The Malaysian company’s Philippine operation is headed by retired Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga, chair and chief executive officer of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc. Mayuga is a former flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy.

In July 2005, Mayuga, then inspector general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, headed a panel that investigated the involvement of at least four military generals linked to the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

The scandal involved tapped conversations supposedly between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on the alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential election results.

US Embassy statement

In a statement sent by e-mail, Cynthia Cook, deputy press attaché of the US Embassy in Manila, said: “We are aware of the allegations against Glenn Defense Marine Philippines, a contractor for the US Navy in the Philippines, and we understand there is an ongoing investigation by the Subic Bay Freeport authorities.”

Cook, however, said the US government would await the results of the investigation before it imposed sanctions, if any. “We will take appropriate action depending on the outcome of the investigation,” she said.

11-09-2012, 09:43 AM
US Navy contractor invokes VFA

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Friday, November 9th, 2012

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A US Navy contractor accused of dumping toxic wastes on Subic Bay invoked the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has no jurisdiction over the company.

Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc., which operates here, took this line of defense in reply to the SBMA Ecology Center’s show cause letter.

In a Nov. 6 letter, lawyers from the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco law firm, who represent Glenn Defense Marine Asia, told the SBMA that the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM) was the sole and proper authority that should handle the concerns and issues it raised on the waste dumping incident.

The letter was signed by lawyers Kristoffer James Purisima and Bernard Joseph Malibiran.

“At the outset, it should be pointed out that our client provides marine husbandry and logistics support services (‘support vessels’) solely and exclusively to US Navy vessels visiting the Philippines pursuant to the provisions of the VFA between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States,” Purisima and Malibiran said.

The VFA provides the legal framework for regulating the presence of American military personnel and equipment in the Philippines, they said.

“It is clear that vessels operated by or for the United States armed forces—such as the support vessels of our client—may enter the Philippines upon the approval of the government of the Philippines and the movement thereof shall be the subject to mutually acceptable implementing agreements,” they added.

No mention of dumping

Nowhere in the letter did the company’s lawyers address the allegations that it had dumped waste water on Subic Bay; it only repeatedly cited provisions in the VFA exempting Glenn Defense Marine Asia from SBMA jurisdiction.

“Therefore, with all due respect, it is our client’s position that its support vessels are not commercial vessels that are subject to the regulation of your office. Rather, the support vessels solely operate for the benefit of the US armed forces under the stated provisions of the VFA. As such, said support vessels are in the country for at most several days per visit and engage in no other business or purpose except to service visiting US Navy vessels,” the lawyers said.

“Therefore, the operation of the support vessels is sui generis and beyond the regulatory framework sought to be enforced by your office,” they said.

“In this respect, please note that matters involving compliance with the provisions of the VFA should be treated by the VFACOM, which is mandated by Executive Order No. 199 dated 17 January 2010 to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the VFA.”

The lawyers also cited provisions in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, of which the Philippines is a party, and said: “A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal or domestic law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.”

They also said that Glenn Defense Marine Asia was a victim of a Filipino firm that alerted the SBMA about its supposed violations.

“We find it unfortunate, that interlopers with perceived competing business interests continue to harass our client and continue to lobby against the operations of its support vessels, thereby jeopardizing our country’s ability to comply in good faith with its treaty obligations and adversely impact on our national security as it gives rise to doubts on our dependability as a defense and treaty ally of the United States of America,” the lawyers said.

But SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said Glenn Defense Marine Asia was a registered SBMA locator operating within the free port. “Our position is that they are [bound by our laws]. They cannot claim that [the VFA is their defense],” he said.

Garcia said the SBMA would file charges against Glenn Defense Marine Asia for its environmental and seaport violations.

“If any ship comes and goes [within the free port], they have to notify the free port [authorities]. They didn’t,” he said.

Garcia added: “They claim we have no jurisdiction because of the VFA. I don’t agree with that. As far as I’m concerned, if they violate environmental laws—even if it’s the US Navy—they are liable.”

“If there’s a violation, the public has the right to know,” he said. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

11-13-2012, 01:02 PM
Subic waste not hazardous—Mayuga

By Niña Calleja, Tonette Orejas, Robert Gonzaga

Inquirer Central Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:08 am | Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The head of the Philippine office of a US Navy contractor on Monday disputed claims by government agencies that it dumped into Subic Bay toxic wastes from American ships that recently took part in joint military exercises in the country.

Five days after the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the environment issue, retired Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga, CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc., called reports about the company dumping hazardous wastes into the bay “inaccurate or false.”

Mayuga said the local office of a Singapore-based multinational company operating in 27 countries handled domestic wastes from the toilets and kitchens of US Navy ships, but, according to him, these were safe for disposal.

“What we get from the US Navy are already pretreated wastewater. These are even cleaner than the ones coming out of our respective homes. I’m sorry to say that,” Mayuga told reporters Monday at a press briefing in Makati City.

Roberto Garcia, chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), earlier told reporters that test results showed that Glenn Defense vessels were carrying “sewage waste with high levels of toxicity.”

Garcia said the results “confirmed that [Glenn Defense] did not treat the waste, which it should have.”

Lab tests

Hernan Habacon, spokesperson of Subic Water and Sewerage Co. that tested water samples from a Glenn Defense vessel, said the results showed that these were “beyond the permissible limits.”

Results of the tests obtained by the Inquirer showed that samples of effluents taken from vessels of the US Navy contractor exceeded Philippine standards, but these were not tested for heavy metals because the firm that conducted the tests, Subic Water, was not equipped to do so.

Even so, the SBMA Ecology Center said wastes collected from American ships and dumped into Philippine waters last month could not be classified as “hazardous wastes.”

Asked to confirm reports that the center had told the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) that the wastes dumped by Glenn Defense’s vessels could not be considered hazardous, Angel Bagaloyos, acting head of the center, said in a text message: “Technically, yes.”

Asked to elaborate, Bagaloyos said: “By law, Republic Act No. 6969, sewage is exempted. The law on hazard waste management identifies hazard waste.”

RA 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990) defines hazardous wastes as “substances that are without any safe commercial, industrial, agricultural or economic usage and are shipped, transported or brought from the country of origin for dumping or disposal into or in transit through any part of the territory of the Philippines.”

“Hazardous wastes shall also refer to by-products, side-products, process residues, spent reaction media, contaminated plant or equipment or other substances from manufacturing operations, and as consumer discards of manufactured products,” it says.


Citing information shared by the SBMA at a technical conference in Pampanga on Monday where things were supposedly clarified, EMB Director for Central Luzon Lormelyn Claudio said: “It is septage, not hazardous waste. It’s domestic waste.”

Asked by the Inquirer to explain that in layman’s term, she said: “Feces.”

Whether the effluents were at hazardous levels is still subject to laboratory tests, she said.

Where exactly the wastes were dumped will be established by the SBMA, she said.

37 km from bay

The SBMA, in a spot inspection report on Oct. 15, said it was told by the captain of a Glenn Defense vessel, the MT Glenn Guardian, that the wastes would be dumped at least 37 kilometers from Subic Bay last month.

The SBMA team found some 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease) during an inspection of the vessel. These were hauled from the US Navy ship Emory Land.

Mayuga said he would never let dumping of toxic waste into Subic Bay happen. “I’m also a Filipino,” he said.

US Navy responsibility

Mayuga said it was the responsibility of the US Navy to ensure that the wastewater had undergone treatment.

“The US Navy and even commercial vessels have water treatment facilities aboard their ships,” said Mayuga, who in 2005 led a military inquiry into the involvement of at least four generals tagged in the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal during the Arroyo administration.

Asked if the US Navy contractor had a way of knowing whether the water passed to its tankers was treated, Mayuga said: “They have to make sure that the water had been pretreated.”

“Our clients must do the testing themselves. It’s a practice in the US Navy that you don’t give away untreated wastewater,” Mayuga added.

He refused to answer the question on who should be blamed if the water dumped into the sea was toxic. “There are procedures to know who dumped the wastewater. We have the technology now to determine who the source was,” he said.

Glenn Defense also serviced the 103 ships that made calls at the Subic Bay Freeport from Oct. 3 to Dec. 22, 2009, Jan. 5 to Oct. 12, 2010, Aug. 21 to Nov. 10, 2011, and Jan. 2 to Oct. 17, 2012, records released by the SBMA showed.


Mayuga said he was open to any investigation. “As long as it (claim) is valid, we welcome this. That’s the only way to move forward.”

Pleading to the media to honor only the sources that are willing to be named, he said “all this [controversy] started from one inaccurate report that took on a life of its own.”

Mayuga said the report had originated from anonymous calls the SBMA had received.

The US Navy and the SBMA have launched an investigation of the allegations of hazardous-waste dumping by Glenn Defense.

11-13-2012, 01:02 PM
( ^ Continued)


Pending the results of the investigation, the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce also announced it had suspended the membership of the contractor, a registered locator at the Subic Bay Freeport.

An internal investigation on Glenn Defense’s part, however, was no longer necessary, Mayuga said.

“After every ship visit, we do a hotwash. It’s a critical analysis we do on how we had performed, both the good and the bad (aspects),” he said. “And we have done nothing wrong.”

Mayuga said he found it ironic that his company was at the center of an environmental controversy when he and his family have been concerned about the environment.

“I have a daughter who owns two organic stores. She’s a vegetarian. Our grandchildren prefer organic materials at home. How could I violate environmental laws and still have the gall to face them?” he said.

“We are a responsible company and we will do everything without compromise to observe established standards of releasing pretreated waste to the ocean at the internationally prescribed distances,” he said.

Mayuga said he was still waiting for the SBMA Ecology Center to call him for a meeting on the matter.

Contrary to reports that Glenn Defense was hiding under the skirt of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Mayuga said the company was not covered by the bilateral agreement “nor do we claim to be.”

“We service only US Navy ships but we are not in any way included in VFA arrangements,” he said.

Bagaloyos did not reply to the Inquirer’s query if the SBMA Ecology Center had examined the entire composition of the wastewater samples taken from the Glenn Defense vessels.

While the EMB was holding the technical conference, the SBMA board held an emergency meeting at Gateway Mall in Quezon City on the findings of the SBMA Ecology Center regarding the issue of waste dumping into Subic Bay.

Garcia did not respond to the Inquirer’s calls and text messages on the results of the board meeting.

‘Beyond permissible limits’

Habacon, spokesperson for Subic Water, said in a statement: “The SBMA Ecology Center sent us a sample for [laboratory] testing, allegedly from the said vessel, [MT] Glenn Guardian. We tested it for domestic strength only, and the results showed that it was beyond the permissible limits. The sample is of industrial strength.”

Subic Water treats only domestic wastewater and it has no capability to test the presence of heavy metals, Habacon said.

“The result we sent to SBMA Ecology Center, therefore, is not conclusive whether the sample is toxic or not. But as per our standards, the sample was not fit for release in the environment as the organic content was beyond the permissible limits,” he said.

A source familiar with the investigation of the SBMA Ecology Center told the Inquirer: “The mere fact that the wastewater was industrial grade means it is already hazardous to the environment, and violates DENR Administrative Order No. 35, which contains the standard for the discharging of treated wastewater.”

The source, who asked not to be named due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said the water samples also contained oil and grease, “which can be classified as hazardous.”

Sought for comment on the SBMA Ecology Center’s findings, former Environment Undersecretary Gregorio Magdaraog, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation said:

“Fecal waste in water pollutes the environment with pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause disease to humans and other living creatures. Serious diseases can be caused [by this].”

“It is therefore hazardous to one’s health and the environment. To say otherwise is irresponsible,” he said.

EMB’s Claudio said a maritime pollution law required that effluents be treated when these are discharged 5.5 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from the coast.

Asked if the contractor applied for a permit to dump or collect waste from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Lt. Cmdr. Roben de Guzman said: “As far as I know it should [get permits from] other agencies, not us.”

De Guzman, station commander of Subic and head of the PCG’s Port State Control Center Manila, said MT Glenn Guardian and MT Glenn Enterprise were sighted in Manila two weeks ago.

Sam Miguel
12-11-2012, 12:09 PM
China air force in large-scale drill amid tensions

Associated Press

6:46 pm | Friday, December 7th, 2012

BEIJING—China’s air force has staged one of its largest-ever drills amid heightened tensions with Japan and Beijing’s southern neighbors over territorial claims, state media reported Friday.

The air combat exercises involving more than 100 pilots were held over 11 days last month in the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang, according to the website of the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and other official news outlets.

Pilots practiced engaging in dog fights and countering electro-magnetic interference, the reports said.

Aircraft taking part came from 14 separate units and included China’s most modern jet fighters, the J-10 and J-11, along with older models and two-seater Sukhoi Su-30s purchased from Russia, the reports said.

The exercises are a vivid demonstration of China’s vastly improved military capabilities that have unnerved other Asian nations and spur a renewed US focus on the region. The Global Times newspaper published by People’s Daily called them the largest in recent years in both firepower and numbers of aircraft, and said they also involved large numbers of technicians and experts on missiles, radar and other related technologies.

They came amid stepped-up sea patrols around East China Sea islands claimed by China but controlled by Japan that followed an explosion of violent anti-Japanese protests across China in September.

Beijing has dispatched China Marine Surveillance vessels almost daily to confront Japanese Coast Guard cutters around the uninhabited rocks north of Taiwan, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Taiwan, which calls the islands Diaoyutai, also claims them.

The drills also follow renewed feuding between China and other claimants to islands and maritime territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Aggressive patrolling by Chinese vessels has prompted Vietnam and the Philippines to bolster their forces with additional ships, planes, and submarines, and has drawn in the US, which insists on free navigation through the region of crucial shipping lanes and rich fishing stocks and undersea mineral wealth.

While the exercises were being held, China’s navy also for the first time launched and recovered aircraft from the country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Ukrainian craft that will be armed with J-15 fighter-bombers, a Chinese adaptation of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33.

Sam Miguel
12-11-2012, 12:09 PM
US, PH to hold strategic talks amid tensions in disputed sea

By Fatima Reyes


6:10 pm | Monday, December 10th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and the United States will be holding strategic bilateral talks on defense and the rule of law amid heightened tensions in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

In a press briefing for reporters, Carlos Soreta, Assistant Secretary for the Office of American Affairs, said that the third Bilateral Strategic Dialogue—to be held Dec. 11 to 12—would tackle the subjects of defense; economics and trade; rule of law; and regional and global issues.
Soreta said the talks would be chaired by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, whom President Benigno Aquino III had earlier delegated as the country’s new Ambassador to China, and National Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino for the Philippine government; and State Department Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell and Defense Assistant Secretary Mark Lippert for the US.

When asked whether the talks would center around the issue of disputes involving the West Philippine Sea, Soreta said, “It’s very hard to disassociate this meeting with what’s happening in the West Philippine Sea.”

The disputes among claimant countries have heightened in recent weeks, with a report of China’s plan to board and seize ships that enter what it claims to be its territory in the disputed sea.

China claims nearly the entire sea, while the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan claim parts of the area, believed to be the site of oil and gas deposits.

China’s purported plan came days after it issued new passports bearing a map showing China’s nine-dash claims in the West Philippine Sea. Both the Philippines and Vietnam have refused to stamp the Chinese e-passports in protest of China’s claims, and have also sought China’s clarification on its new maritime patrol rules.

The United States, whose military is “pivoting” to Asia after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also seeking clarification of the new rules.

Soreta explained that the foremost agenda for defense was the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country. He clarified, however, that discussions for now concentrated on “more presence and activities in areas that are agreed upon by both parties.”

“Working groups will be discussing strategic guidelines on how this increased rotational presence could enhance the humanitarian and disaster relief dimension of our activities,” Soreta said.

Soreta stressed that the country was thankful to the US for its commitment to contribute to the peace and stability in the region, the rule of law and the strength of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“But for our part, we believe the increased rotational presence helps give us the diplomatic space of which to work some of our legal and political strategies… it gives us some strategic breathing space to engage other parties in trying to help solve our problem,” Soreta said.

Soreta said that the Philippines and US shared deep values and that given that, “we feel that the US would be more prone to promote peace, to promote rule of law than what others might say is to promote their own interests.”

He also emphasized that the said talks, as part of diplomacy, should not be a cause for alarm for any region.

Manila has consistently called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute according to international law, but China has insisted that disputes should be dealt with using bilateral negotiations.

Soreta said the Philippines seeks the settlement of disputes through the rule of law, and that he believed the US was the appropriate country to talk about this.

He said that it was clear that the United States was engaged in the region, and that it sent the right signal that states must behave in a reasonable way and in a lawful way.

He said that he believed that improving the country’s relations with the US “puts us in a better position,” but that with or without the US, the Philippines would maintain its stand and claims to the West Philippine Sea.

“The last thing we want to do is for the conflict to heat up but the price of that is not us giving up on our claim there,” Soreta said.

Sam Miguel
12-11-2012, 12:10 PM
PH backs rearmed Japan to ‘balance’ China

Agence France-Presse

3:17 pm | Monday, December 10th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines would support Japan dropping its pacifist constitution to become a fully-fledged military force and act as a balance against a rising China, a government spokesman said Monday.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan – its World War II foe – as a counterweight to what it sees as Chinese provocation.

“We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor,” he told the paper amid growing tensions over the South China Sea, almost all of which is claimed by China.

Foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez confirmed the government’s view that Japan should upgrade its military from a self-defense force so that it has more freedom to operate in the region.

“(Del Rosario) said we are in favor of Japan’s gaining strength,” Hernandez told AFP.

Japan occupied the Philippines for more than three years from December 1941, during which suspected guerrillas were tortured and executed, and some local women forced into prostitution to serve the occupying army.

The war claimed at least a million civilian Philippine lives, according to historians.

The newspaper interview come shortly before a general election in Japan where the front-runner, opposition leader Shinzo Abe, has said he wants to revise the country’s pacifist constitution, imposed by the US after the war.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbours. These areas include major sea lanes and are believed to hold vast mineral and oil resources.

China’s claim is contested by the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have overlapping claims to some or all of those same areas.

In April, Chinese patrol vessels prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting a group of Chinese fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal, which is close to the main Philippine island of Luzon and which Manila says is part of its territory.

Manila says China has continued to station patrol vessels in the area even after the Philippines withdrew its vessels and called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute according to international law.

Earlier this month, the Philippines asked China to clarify press reports Chinese authorities had authorised its forces to interdict ships entering what Beijing considers its territorial waters.

China and Japan are also in dispute over islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo.

12-28-2012, 09:15 AM
Chinese sea patrol alarms PH

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Friday, December 28th, 2012

China on Thursday sent its first patrol vessel to disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) ahead of the enforcement of new rules that authorized Chinese border police to board, search and expel foreign vessels from waters Beijing considers its territory.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the patrol ship Haixun 21 sailed into the high seas Thursday under the administration of the Maritime Safety Administration of Hainan province, from which China administers the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines said it would verify the report.

If the report proves correct, the Philippines will ask the Chinese why they are “patrolling and in what areas,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said the Philippines was also verifying reports that China was investing $1.6 billion to fortify and develop islands involved in territorial disputes with Southeast Asian nations in the West Philippine Sea.

Hainan province announced in late November new rules that authorized Chinese border patrols to board, search and expel foreign vessels from waters in the West Philippine Sea claimed by China.

Freedom of navigation

The new rules will come into effect on Jan. 1, but Southeast Asian nations and the United States have asked China for clarification on the purpose and extent of the new rules.

The United States has taken a neutral stance on its Southeast Asian allies’ territorial disputes with China, but it has made clear that it has a “national interest” in freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, home to sea-lanes where a third of global trade passes and to islands, reefs and atolls believed to be sitting on vast gas and oil reserves.

Del Rosario said China had yet to respond to the Philippines’ request for clarification of the new maritime rules.

China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, but the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of the sea within their exclusive economic zones. Taiwan also claims some islands in the sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam are the more strident claimants, pressing for the resolution of their claims according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and for a code of conduct in the sea to prevent the conflicting claims from erupting into armed clashes.

Fortifying Sansha

On Wednesday the financial news agency Bloomberg reported that China was investing $1.6 billion to build infrastructure, including air and sea ports, in Sansha City, a garrison town built by China on Woody Island, in the Paracels, claimed by Vietnam.

China established Sansha City in June to govern the Paracel and Spratly islands and the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), where Chinese and Philippine ships faced off with each other from early April to mid-June.

Vietnam and the Philippines protested the establishment of Sansha City, calling it a violation of international law.

Manila said it was “unacceptable” for a Chinese city to hold administrative control over territories within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Instead of responding to the protests, China, through Hainan, announced the new maritime rules.

In its report Thursday, Xinhua quoted Ruan Ruiwen, head of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, as saying that the Haixun 21’s departure for the South China Sea marked the beginning of Chinese sailing beyond coastal waters.

“In the past, Hainan provincial maritime law enforcement entities could only cover coastal waters and never reached the high seas. The newly enlisted Haixun 21 ends the history of no large oceangoing patrol vessels in South China Sea,” Ruan said.

Maritime safety

Xinhua also quoted Huang He, deputy head of the maritime bureau of China’s Ministry of Transport, as saying that the vessel “will monitor maritime traffic safety, investigate maritime accidents, detect pollution, carry out search and rescue work, and fulfill international conventions.”

The report said the ship could sail without refueling for up to 7,200 kilometers, roughly the same distance between the Philippines and Australia.

Chinese media criticized China’s rivals for territory in the West Philippine Sea for “provocations” and justified China’s decision to fortify Sansha and upgrade its naval forces.

Del Rosario said the Philippine Embassy in Beijing was verifying reports of the Chinese investment.

If the reports are true, Del Rosario said, China would violate the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that it signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

The declaration aims to deter use of force and instead promote peace and self-restraint among countries claiming territory in the sea.

“We have officially asked for clarification from the Chinese Embassy in Manila and as well asked our Beijing post to directly contact their [Chinese] foreign ministry. Until now we are still awaiting an official response,” Del Rosario said.

China’s Global Times and China Daily insisted that China had the right to secure its sovereignty over the islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam in the West Philippine Sea and by Japan in the East China Sea.


The two newspapers called the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s protests against China moves in the sea “provocations.”

Global Times opinion writer Yu Jincui said in an article published Thursday that China’s plan to develop Sansha City was aimed at bolstering the country’s southern maritime defense.

Yu said the development of Sansha City was China’s response to “provocations” from the Philippines and Vietnam.

China Daily said China’s efforts to upgrade its Navy should not set off alarm bells in the region.

The paper cited “provocations” from the Philippines and Japan as justification for China’s bulking up its naval muscles.

Other countries should not “read too much into China’s efforts to build itself into a maritime power,” the paper said.

“China does not seek hegemony. It will not pose a threat to others. Its resolve to enhance its defense forces only serves its need to cultivate a good security environment for its peaceful development,” the paper said.

12-29-2012, 10:29 AM
The US will be put in a difficult situation if (God forbid) this happens. They're going to protect us as stated in the MDA and at the same time they'll go up against a country whom they owe a lot in debt.

12-30-2012, 07:47 AM
Subic military base buildup vital to DND, US

5:28 am | Friday, October 12th, 2012

Going on in the Philippines, which has a mutual defense treaty with the United States, are joint exercises between US and Philippine marines, and the venue is exactly where the DND plans to build a base that a spokesperson for the department says is vital to the country’s security program.

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The plan of the Department of National Defense (DND) to develop a military base inside the Subic free port is a critical part of the country’s national security program, a defense official said.

It is also critical to the United States’ plan to “pivot” to Asia, a new military strategy that will see 60 percent of US warships shifting to the region by the end of the decade.

The planned shift, announced earlier this year, has drawn sharp criticism from Beijing, which sees it as a strategy to contain China, an emerging military power whose increasing aggressiveness in asserting its claims in Southeast Asian waters is causing worries in the region.

While Washington has sought to assure Beijing that the strategy is not intended to box in China, the United States has proceeded to conclude agreements with Singapore and Australia that will allow shelter for US war groups in the region.

The United States also conducts regular joint military maneuvers with Asian countries, often billed as civil-military exercises for disaster preparedness.

Going on in the Philippines, which has a mutual defense treaty with the United States, are joint exercises between US and Philippine marines, and the venue is exactly where the DND plans to build a base that a spokesperson for the department says is vital to the country’s security program.

AFP modernization

“The Armed Forces [of the Philippines] is modernizing in a very aggressive [way],” Peter Paul Galvez, DND spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone on Wednesday.

“In a few months, we are embarking in procurement and we intend to use those areas in Subic for our air platform and naval assets,” Galvez said.

“We have a big interest in the area,” he said, referring to the 200-hectare airport complex in the Subic free port, a former US naval base at the boundary between Zambales and Bataan provinces.

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) earlier announced that the agency wanted to convert the idle Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) into a tourism and commercial hub, like Sentosa Island in Singapore.

Part of modernization

But SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia later said the plan would not proceed because the DND wanted to use the airport as a military base.

The DND, Galvez said, has asked Congress to approve P75 billion for the modernization of the military in five years.

Part of the modernization program is a plan that calls for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to use SBIA at Cubi Point and the adjacent seaport, Galvez said.

The US Navy built the airport during the Korean War in the 1950s. It left Subic in November 1991, two months after the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the Philippine-US military bases agreement.

The Philippine government, through the SBMA, converted Subic into a special economic zone and free port.

Galvez said discussions with the SBMA had not yet touched on leases.

“These are really needed, really perfect. These are very ideal. It is cheaper to locate than replicate [the facilities] elsewhere,” Galvez said.

“Subic can handle large aircraft. It has a deep sea,” he added.

[I]SBMA understands

Asked if the SBMA resisted the DND plan, Galvez replied, “They understand.”

“Having a military base in Subic is good for everyone there. It will support economic growth,” he said. “It is strategic for all. We are intently looking at it. We need the facilities.”

Galvez said the military had retained Air Force units at the free port in Clark, Pampanga province.

The Air Force units at the 300-hectare Air Force City in Clark are the First Air Division, 600th Air Base Wing, Air Logistic Command, Air Reserve Command, 710th Special Operations Wing and 410th Maintenance Wing.

In exchange for the lease, the Air Force helps secure the international airport and aviation areas in the free port at Clark.

Galvez said he had no information yet on which units would move to Subic. There is no schedule yet for the construction of the military base there, he added.

Not aimed at China

Aware of the potential repercussions of the plan, Galvez said the base was not part of efforts to beef up the capability of the Philippines to deal with China’s aggressiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s insistence that it owns the entire sea has led to a face-off between Philippine and Chinese ships at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) from early April to mid-June, about the time US officials were going around the region explaining the new US military strategy.

But the plan to build a military base in Subic, Galvez said, has been existing since the 1990s. “It got waylaid for lack of funding,” he said.

“Our country needed strategic sites to monitor [our seas] and land, and these sites have national security implications,” he said.

The development of the new military base does not include engaging the US military for its use or even for shared use, he said.

Should troops from the United States or Australia use the Air Force facilities in Subic, this would be covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement with those countries, he said.

12-30-2012, 07:49 AM
2 US warships to dock in PH

By Frances Mangosing


5:28 pm | Friday, December 28th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines–Two US warships will dock in Philippine waters on Saturday for a routine port call, the United States Embassy said on Friday.

The USS Gridley (DDG-101), an Arleigh-Burke Class Destroyer which forms part of the US Pacific Fleet, will dock in Cebu.

The ship, named for Captain Charles Gridley, Commander of the USS Olympia who was famously told by Admiral George Dewey to “fire when you are ready, Gridley” in the Battle of Manila Bay during Spanish-American War, is homeported in San Diego, California.

The USS Gridley also docked in Manila Bay last month.

Meanwhile, USS Bremerton (SSN 698), a submarine of Los Angeles class design, will also make a port call in Subic.

She was named in honor of the city of Bremerton in Washington, home to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and a city with a long association with the US Navy. She is the tenth ship of the Los Angeles class design, and her keel was laid in Connecticut in May 1976.

Both port calls emphasize the “strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.” It will allow the ships to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation, the US Embassy added in a statement.

Earlier this year, the US signified its intention to boost its presence in the Pacific by deploying a majority of its naval assets by 2020. Amid rising tensions between China and other Asian countries including the Philippines over the disputed Spratly Islands, the US said the deployment of their assets was not meant to challenge China.

Sam Miguel
01-28-2013, 09:19 AM
Aquino alleges China harassed Philippines boats

AFP News – Sun, Jan 27, 2013

President Benigno Aquino has accused China of harassing two Philippine fishing boats in disputed South China Sea waters, allegedly driving out one that had sheltered from rough seas.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Aquino said the two Scarborough Shoal incidents had led to Manila seeking United Nations arbitration this week over the territorial dispute.

Aquino, who did not say when the incidents occurred, said "Chinese vessels" approached to within nine metres (10 yards) of a Filipino fishing boat near the shoal.

"While they (Chinese vessels) were approaching, their horns were supposedly blaring at full blast, causing apprehension to our fishing vessel," he said, according to a transcript released by the government on Saturday.

A second Filipino boat was driven out by Chinese vessels shortly after it took shelter near the shoal, he added.

"According to the affidavit (crew's depositions), they were told to go back to the rough waters."

The shoal, located closer to the Philippine island of Luzon than the Chinese mainland, has been a source of friction since April last year when Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine navy from arresting alleged Chinese poachers.

Aquino, saying only that the incidents were the latest in a series of assertive Chinese actions in the area, stressed the Scarborough Shoal -- which Manila calls "Bajo de Masinloc" and China calls "Huangyan island" -- and its surrounding waters are part of the Philippines' "exclusive economic zone".

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and islands close to the shores of its neighbours.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario however this week said Manila had taken China to a UN tribunal to challenge its claim to most of the sea, including territory belonging to the archipelago, and would ask the arbitration panel to declare Chinese claims in the area invalid.

Aquino said he could not allow China to claim "effective control over Bajo de Masinloc by ordering our vessels out", as this could encourage Beijing to move into the Philippine-claimed and allegedly resource-rich Reed Bank.

"We are not threatening anybody, but if we don't stand up for our rights, who do we expect will be standing up for our rights?" Aquino said.

China's embassy spokesmen could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 08:42 AM
US lawmakers back PH move in UN

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:51 am | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Visiting United States lawmakers are “very supportive” of the Philippine move elevating to a United Nations arbitration tribunal its bid to invalidate China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and to stop Chinese incursions into Philippine-claimed parts of the disputed waters, a foreign official said Tuesday.

Foreign Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta said members of the US Congress led by foreign affairs committee chair Ed Royce were “very interested” in Manila’s legal action invoking the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) against Beijing in hopes of peacefully settling the protracted maritime dispute.

“Members of the US Congress expressed their very strong support for our efforts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance with Unclos,” Sorreta told reporters Tuesday.

“There was some discussion on the details of our action. They were very interested in the merits of our arguments, they’re very supportive of it,” said Sorreta.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario briefed the US side on the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim filed against China last week.

“What the US has always maintained is that they don’t take sides in any dispute but they would like to see these disputes resolved peacefully,” said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who was present at the briefing.

US Representatives Eliot Engel, Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan, Matthew James Salmon Thomas, Anthony Marino were part of the delegation that met with Philippine officials, including Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. was also present at the hour-long meeting at the DFA Tuesday morning.

For his part, Royce said Washington was taking no sides in the territorial conflict but backs up an internationally accepted diplomatic solution.

“It is best that China join the process so that we can move forward under international law,” the California Republican told The Associated Press after meeting with Del Rosario and other diplomats in Manila.

“We want to calm the tensions,” Royce said. “We want this approached from the standpoint of diplomacy, and that is what we are conveying because in that way we don’t create a crisis which roils the markets or creates uncertainty.”

Royce and the US delegation will meet with President Aquino and other Philippine officials before traveling to Beijing on Wednesday as part of their Asian tour.

China, the Philippines and four other countries have overlapping claims across the vast South China Sea. Beijing insists it has sovereignty over virtually all of the region, which is said to be rich in oil and gas and is home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes. With an AP report

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:14 AM
From Inquirer.net - - -

US congressmen express support for PH arbitration case vs China

3:33 pm | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

US lawmakers express support for PH arbitration case against China

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the United States (US) congress have expressed their support for the Philippine move to bring its West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) disputes before an arbitral body under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), reiterating their country’s position for peaceful resolution of disputes under international law.

In an interview with reporters, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for the Office of American Affairs Carlos Sorreta said that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario briefed the visiting congressmen on the country’s latest actions regarding the issue and that the congressmen were “very supportive of it.”

“The members of the US congress expressed their very strong support for our efforts to resolve the situation there in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” Sorreta said.

“There were some discussions on the details of our actions and they were very interested in the merits of our argument, they’re very supportive of it,” Sorreta added.

The US congressional delegation (Codel), led by newly selected chairman of the US House committee on foreign affairs Congressman Edward Royce, had a meeting with Del Rosario, Sorreta, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio and other Philippine officials at the DFA main office Tuesday morning. The delegation was in the country for a three-day visit.

The DFA had earlier said that high on the agenda for the meeting were discussions on the countries’ bilateral relations, defense and trade and investment cooperation, as well as regional security issues.

Sorreta told reporters that the US Codel would be heading to Beijing after the Manila stop.

Asked whether the US congressmen would be discussing the Philippines’ latest moves with the Chinese officials, Sorreta said that he could not speak on behalf of the congressmen but that based on his own understanding of the talks that transpired, the issue on the disputes would be discussed.

“But we conveyed to them our determination to see this case through and they have said that they support it,” Sorreta said.

“It is our hope that they will discuss it with the Chinese when they go to Beijing,” he added.

Sorreta emphasized that the country welcomes moral and political support on its arbitration case against China but that it should proceed on its own merits.

“The case should proceed on its own merits……we don’t expect nor do we wish that politics enter into it,” he said.

“We believe very strongly in the merits of the case and that it will proceed on that basis….We welcome the moral support, and in a way political support, but with or without that our case would proceed,” he said.

The US delegation includes Ranking Member Eliot Engel, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congressman Vern Buchanan, Congressman Matthew James “Matt” Salmon, and Congressman Thomas Anthony “Tom” Marino.

In a separate briefing for reporters, DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez also noted that the discussions involved “the continuing commitment of the US in providing support for our building of our minimum credible defense posture” to protect its territorial waters.

He added that “possible energy investments in the Philippines were also discussed.”

The visit of the US congressmen came after the Philippines had earlier announced that it had decided to challenge China’s nine-dash claim to nearly all of the South of China Sea before an arbitral tribunal under the Unclos, saying that the “excessive claims violate international law.”

China had not made an announcement on whether it would participate in the arbitral proceedings, but maintained its position that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the area.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have contending claims over parts of the sea.

Meanwhile, asked whether discussions involved the issue on a US Navy minesweeper that ran aground on the Tubbataha Reefs, Sorreta said that there were no such discussions.

Sorreta however pointed out that the US lawmakers recognized the “leadership of the Philippines in terms of protecting the environment, particularly the marine environment.”

Sam Miguel
02-08-2013, 08:06 AM
US, allies in show of force
Philippines may soon join military exercise

Associated Press

12:06 am | Friday, February 8th, 2013

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam—Fighter jets from the United States and two key allies roared into western Pacific skies on Thursday in the combat phase of annual exercises that have gained importance as the region responds to the rise of China and other potential threats.

The Cope North drills—which could soon swell in participants—are aimed at preparing air forces of the United States, Japan and Australia to fight together if a military crisis erupts.

They also send a vivid reminder to Beijing that America’s regional alliances are strong, though officers leading the maneuvers say they are not looking to bait the Chinese military.

“The training is not against a specific country, like China,” Japan Air Self-Defense Force Lt. Gen. Masayuki Hironaka said. “However, I think [the fact] that our alliance with the US and Australia is healthy is a strong message.”

The three allies began flying sorties together earlier in the week around the US territory of Guam in a humanitarian phase of the exercises, dropping emergency assistance in packages that wafted down under parachutes to jungle airfields.

On Thursday, fighter jets were joined by bombers, transport planes and tankers that refuel the fighters in midair. For the first time, Japanese tankers were joining the drills.

US officials said they believe more allies, particularly New Zealand and the Philippines, will join the exercises soon.

Maneuvers like Cope North are a key element of Washington’s evolving strategy in the Pacific as the United States shifts its emphasis away from Afghanistan and fighting ground wars.

Focus on Asia

The United States is now placing more attention on Asia and the possibility of an air or sea confrontation with the rapidly modernizing Chinese military, which has been briskly improving its forces and using its growing muscle to back up territorial claims that have raised regional tensions.

This “Pacific rebalance” will bring newer and more advanced aircraft and ships to the Pacific theater over the next several years and spread out the tens of thousands of US troops now primarily based in Japan and South Korea.

US Marines have already begun rotational deployments to Darwin, in northern Australia, and about 9,000 Marines stationed on the southern Japan island of Okinawa are to be moved to this tiny island, Hawaii and other locations.

The changes reflect a deepening strategic concern over the rise of China as a regional military power with the potential to challenge America’s ability to intervene in a crisis, particularly around Taiwan or islands in the south and east China seas that are contested by China and US allies such as the Philippines and Japan.

But the emphasis on alliance-building through exercises like Cope North also underscores fears in the Pentagon that major budget cuts looming in Congress could make it difficult for Washington to shoulder the whole burden of keeping China in check.

The Pacific Air Forces commander, Gen. Herbert Carlisle, said the budget cuts now being considered could threaten America’s role as a superpower.

China buildup

Carlisle noted that China’s military, and especially its navy, have been undergoing a “massive buildup” and are becoming a more credible challenge to their US counterparts.

So, strategic alliances are now more important than ever.

“The United States and our partners are taking ‘joint’ to the next level,” Carlisle said. “The amount of commerce that goes through here, the amount of the world GDP that goes through here, if you look at the world’s population that is in this part of the world, the importance of the Pacific can’t be overstated.”

Washington’s renewed focus on Asia has generally been welcomed by its more established and prosperous allies—like Japan and Australia—because they share the US concerns that changes in the balance of power could hurt economic growth throughout the region.

“I think nations throughout the region are looking for that increased support that working with the US is likely to bring,” said Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore Anthony Grady. “Australia welcomes the refocus.”

Japanese defense

Japan also has a more urgent need to tout its US alliance.

Its Coast Guard ships and fighter aircraft have been deployed frequently over the past several months to drive their Chinese counterparts away from a group of small uninhabited islands that both nations claim as their own.

The dispute has soured diplomatic and trade relations and shows no sign of abating.

Under a treaty, the United States is obliged to come to Japan’s assistance if the islands are attacked or occupied.

Hironaka noted that during Cope North, which involves about 1,700 troops, Japanese fighter jets will conduct needed bombing training that they cannot do in their own country because of crowding and safety restrictions.

“Training with the US is very important to us,” he said. “The US-Japan alliance is key to security in the region.”

Not all Asian nations have been so receptive to the US Pacific policy.

US doubted

Some countries have expressed doubts about how far the United States would be willing to go to support them in a crisis, especially since China is one of Washington’s most important trading partners.

Others have voiced concerns that exercises like Cope North send a confrontational message that might lead to higher tensions.

Carlisle acknowledged that as a possibility.

“I think [China] has a tendency to look at things in a different light,” he said. “I think they may take this as something different than it is intended.”

02-10-2013, 06:32 AM
The west is in a desperate attempt to spark WWIII. Be it in the Pacific, the middle-east, Africa or the Korean peninsula.

No need for China to start a shooting war with the US and her allies. A gold~backed Yuan will destroy the US dollar hegemony overnight. Too bad for the US, Japan has unleashed a currency war against the US dollar while expecfing US help against China`s supposed mulitary aggression. As for the pinoy trapos, still clueless to global shifting of economic power back to the east.

?.....note typing on a tablet is hard. Ayaw ko nang magedit... Kung mali espelling at grammar... Problema na Obama yan. Hehe.

03-06-2013, 08:36 AM
SC junks petition on VFA renegotiation

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) junked yesterday the bid of a group that urged the government to renegotiate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States after an American warship ran aground and destroyed a portion of the world famous Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea last January.

SC spokesman Theodore Te said justices voted in regular session to dismiss the motion filed by University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque Jr. last month seeking issuance of a writ of execution for the implementation of the court’s ruling on Feb. 11, 2009 that ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs “to negotiate with the US government for a more equitable and just Visiting Forces Agreement.”

“The SC in an unsigned resolution denied the Motion for Execution filed by Atty. Harry Roque for lack of merit. The SC stated the petitioner should file the motion with the court of origin,” Te said in a text message.

Part of the 2009 SC ruling, which upheld the constitutionality of the

VFA, was putting up of proper detention facilities for US military service people under Philippine authority.

Roque, in his motion, said the recent grounding of the US minesweeper USS Guardian in the Tubbataha National Park, a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, prompted the filing of the motion for execution.

The 68-meter USS Guardian left Subic on Jan. 15 and ran aground in the Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17 between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. while the ship it was on the way to Indonesia.

Salvage teams from the SMIT Borneo, the US Navy, and the Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp. are now dismantling the ship to remove the vessel from the coral reef.

Roque, who represented former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. in the case, explained that a renegotiation of the VFA could pave the way for abrogation of the agreement.

Roque was both petitioner and counsel in the case before the SC, questioning the constitutionality of the VFA owing to the US’s forcibly getting custody of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was then accused of raping a Filipina identified only as “Nicole.”

Sam Miguel
03-20-2013, 08:33 AM
‘Rebalancing’ of US forces in PH tackled by Gazmin, US defense official

By Frances Mangosing


5:43 pm | Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—A senior official from the United States met with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin Tuesday morning at Camp Aguinaldo to discuss, among other things, the presence of US forces in the country.

The meeting is part of US Deputy Secretary of Defense’s, Dr. Ashton Carter, four-nation visit from March 17 to 21 for a series of consultations.

Part of the meeting included the discussion of “rebalancing” of US forces in the region.

“Ang rebalance na sinasabi nila, it’s a broad approach and a broad engagement of region, so tatamaan tayo in several aspects, economic, s’yempre isa na d’yan economic, tourism. Hindi ko lang sure yung mga scientific, yung mga technologies mga ganun, pero syempre other than the defense ang ano dyan yung engagement natin sa kanila is free, yung mga ganun, yun ang mga gusto nilang mangyari, parang mutually beneficial (What they mean about rebalance is that it’s a broad approach and a broad engagement of region, but it will cover several aspects, life economic and tourism. I’m not sure about scientific, the technologies, those things, but other than the defense, the thing is, the engagement with them is free. That’s what they want to happen, mutually beneficial),” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez told reporters.

Last year, the United States announced they are moving 60 per cent of US Navy Fleet in Asia by 2020.

In a separate news release, the Department of National Defense that “frequent and energized” consultations are seen in the coming months to boost defense cooperation between two countries.

“The visits are a good way for us to strengthen our personal relationships with the people we usually work with. Both the Philippines and the United States will benefit with our frequent and energized consultations with our US counterpart,” Gazmin said.

Both officials also discussed in the meeting that lasted less than an hour the “central role” of the Philippines in the region and how to promote and enhance the existing peace and stability, the US support to the Philippine military’s capability upgrade and training of its personnel.

Sam Miguel
04-03-2013, 08:10 AM
‘US won’t go too far in backing Phl, Japan in sea dispute’

By Pia Lee-Brago

(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The United States is likely to “press the brake” if tension involving the Philippines and Japan with China comes to a tipping point, limiting assurance and support to its treaty allies, a senior Chinese scholar said last Monday.

Ruan Zongze, vice president and senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), said the US is not expected to go too far in its support to the Philippines and Japan, as he emphasized that China will not engage in international arbitration initiated by Manila.

CIIS is the think tank of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It conducts research and analysis on a wide range of foreign policy issues.

Ruan, invited by the Chinese embassy in Manila to give a briefing to the media, said the Philippines is consistently pushing its own agenda to take advantage of the US rebalance in Asia, being its treaty ally.

“I assume the Philippine side sees that this might be the opportunity to assert the sovereignty claim over Panatag Shoal (Huangyan). Because you are a treaty ally of the Americans so they will support you. But China and US relationship is pretty solid and robust,” Ruan told reporters at the embassy.

“This tension must be managed under certain circumstances, but at the same time, if the tension comes to a tipping point, the Americans will press the brake. They are not going too far. Even our bigger dispute with Japan, will Americans really fight for Japanese over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands? I don’t believe so,” he said.

Ruan said the US will assure its treaty allies of support but the assurance is “limited.”

He said China will be a very constructive player in the international community but “we will not engage in international arbitration.”

China’s decision not to participate in the arbitration process is Beijing’s choice and right, according to Ruan.

He said China viewed the Philippines’ action bringing the issue to international arbitration as a unilateral action to escalate the tension.

“That is another escalation of tension because let me put it this way, nobody can really address the sovereignty issue, even the United Nations arbitration,” he said, adding that patience is needed in resolving the issue through negotiation.

Squatting strategy

Meanwhile, former Western Command (Wescom) commander, retired Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, on Monday called for sustained pro-active actions in addressing China’s “squatting” technique, if only to establish their permanent presence within the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. – With Jaime Laude

Sam Miguel
04-05-2013, 08:24 AM
‘Balikatan’ kicks off Friday amid fears over US ‘major attack’

By Frances Mangosing


6:50 am | Friday, April 5th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine-US “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises kick off Friday amid fears that these are being used to prepare for a “major attack” by the US.

Expected to attend the event at Camp Aguinaldo are Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel T. Bautista, AFP Command and General Staff College Commandant Major General Virgillo O. Domingo, and US Deputy Exercise Director Brigadier Generak Richard M. Simcock II.

Over 8,000 troops will participate in the joint military training scheduled until April 17 in Central Luzon.

After the US announced that it would deploy 20 of its air assets for the activities, 12 fighter jets or F/A-18 Hornets from the US military will arrive in Clark, Pampanga in the upcoming days, said Balikatan spokesman Major Emmanuel Garcia.

The “Hornets” are twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable fighter jets, designed to attack ground targets which have been used by the US Navy as demonstration aircraft since 1986.

The USS Tortuga, the only US ship participating in the exercises, arrived Monday in Manila Bay.

Meanwhile, the Philippine military will use nine of its aircraft from the Philippine Air Force to assist Filipino and American troops in the ongoing Balikatan activities while the Philippine Navy will deploy one of its Islanders and two vessels.

This year’s Balikatan will be focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR), the fourth time it will do so since 2008 when the exercises started being held every other year.

Officials from Australia, Brunei, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Thailand will join with high ranking officers from the AFP and US Military in the Multinational Maritime Security Roundtable Discussion at Camp Aguinaldo.

Left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) criticized the staging of this year’s Balikatan exercises, saying “something sinister” is going on with the frequent docking of US warships the country and the rapid deployment of thousands of American military forces on frequent basis under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“Are we in a state of war with a nation, which is not our enemy, but critical of Washington DC and the US military game plan of aggression in Asia and the Pacific? If not, how come the Philippine government has allowed more than 4,000 US military forces to come to the country on rapid deployment mode and rotation basis?” said Salvador France, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya in a press statement.

“Imagine an average of 3,000 to 4,000 US troops come here almost every quarter or semi-annually just for VFA. Just read between the lines the joint and separate statements issued by the US Embassy in Manila and the Office of the President and you will find out that the American mercenaries and invading forces of Washington DC are preparing for a major attack comparable to US war of aggression in Afghanistan. Iraq and Libya,” he added.

The Communist Party of the Philippines also warned about the deployment of US troops and its assets in the upcoming days, saying it is a “display of extreme contempt against Philippine sovereignty and a show of force in the face of heightened US war preparations in the Korean peninsula.”

“By pushing through with the Balikatan 2013 exercises amidst increasing military tensions in the Korean peninsula, the Aquino regime is allowing the Philippines to be dragged by the US government to its military conflicts against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” said the CPP.

“The CPP denounces the US military and government for deceiving the Filipino people about the real intention of the so-called joint military exercises which are being portrayed by the US as serving humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness,” it added.

“For the past several years, the US has been using humanitarian and disaster operations in order to surreptitiously carry out combat and intelligence operations and setup their spy and communications network and infrastructure.”

Sam Miguel
04-05-2013, 08:25 AM
US affirms defense ties with PH

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:54 am | Friday, April 5th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The US defense secretary has reaffirmed Washington’s cooperation with the Philippines on defense, noting the country’s role in maintaining stability in the Asia Pacific, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

In their first meeting since his appointment in February, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “assured” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario of his nation’s steadfast ties with the Philippines and called for furthering cooperation amid mutual concerns in the region.

“Secretary Hagel conveyed to us the need for the Philippines and the United States to further deepen our partnership to uphold peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. [He] expressed his appreciation for what the Philippines is doing in the region and noted that our partnership is critical in our part of the world,” Del Rosario said in a statement.

“He assured us the US will continue to do what it can to further strengthen its relations with the Philippines,” he added.

Del Rosario met with Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday following his talk with Secretary of State John Kerry at the state department in Washington, D.C., where both officials vowed to boost the US-Philippines strategic alliance.

Balikatan exercise

The meeting came ahead of Friday’s kickoff of the Balikatan joint military exercise, where some 20 US air assets and a US Navy ship will also take part in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills.

In a separate statement, the US Embassy in Manila quoted Hagel as saying “he was pleased with the progress being made toward an increased rotational presence of US military forces in the Philippines.”

The embassy further said the Philippine and US sides “discussed US capacity building to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization plans and regional security issues, including the South China Sea, the recent violence in Sabah and North Korea.”

Del Rosario also updated Pentagon officials on the Philippines’ decision to hale China before the United Nations arbitral tribunal to seek a halt to Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim to resource-rich islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

China, however, continues to snub the proceedings, citing “indisputable sovereignty” over the disputed waters, but the arbitration process is expected to continue per UN protocol.

Sam Miguel
04-12-2013, 08:21 AM
Release of 12 Chinese sought

Tubbataha, defense execs snub Chinese intentions

By Redempto D. Anda

Inquirer Southern Luzon 12:05 am | Friday, April 12th, 2013

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Let them go. Forgive and forget. This was the gist of what two ranking officials of the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday were asking in trying to secure the immediate release of 12 Chinese fishermen accused of poaching in the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea.

But they were snubbed by marine park and defense officials.

Instead of listening to Consul General Shen Zicheng and Third Secretary Li Jian, officials of the Tubbataha Management Office proceeded to file bribery charges against the 12 Chinese fishermen, who were arraigned in a court here on Wednesday on charges of poaching.

Shen and Li arrived here on Tuesday and sought a meeting with marine park supervisor Angelique Songco, but were “quietly turned down,” according to a member of the Tubbataha Management Board.

The two Chinese diplomats refused to talk to reporters and returned to Manila on Thursday, said the board member, who requested anonymity for not having authorization to discuss the matter with journalists.

An official at the military’s Western Command (Wescom) here said the two Chinese officials tried to convince local defense authorities in a meeting on Wednesday to pardon the fishermen because their presence in Tubbataha, a protected marine sanctuary, was “unintentional.”

“They tried to convince us that this was all an accident and they did not intend to be there,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

The fishermen have been in detention here since their arrest by park rangers who found their vessel, the 48-meter Ming Long Yu, jammed onto the northern atoll of the world-famous marine sanctuary, 1,600 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass.

“We will seek to quickly prosecute and resolve this case,” Alen Ross Rodriguez, chief prosecutor of Palawan province, which has jurisdiction over Tubbataha, said.

“No one can just enter our waters and willfully destroy our marine life,” Rodriguez said.

Second case

Like the marine park officials, the security officials refused to listen to Shen and Li, the Wescom official said.

Lawyer Adel Villena of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, who assisted the marine park authorities in bringing the bribery charges, said the second case involved the Chinese fishermen’s offering park rangers $2,400 to let them go after their boat ran aground on the northern atoll of Tubbataha Reefs, a UN World Heritage-listed site, on Monday night.

“The second case was for violation of Article No. 212 of the Revised Penal Code concerning bribery of public officials,” Villena said.

“Possibly we are also going to file an additional case for judicial determination of fines,” he added.

The Chinese fishermen—Che Li Yong, Fon Lenl Yie, Zuan Ven Fe, Wang Yu Zhen, Lizhong Shen, Lizhi Ming, Liu Cheng Tie, Liu Wen Jie, Tung Zhue We, Tang Hai Ling, Wen Hong Min and Qi Vixn—face up to 12 years in jail in the Philippines on conviction.

No Beijing role

Despite the Chinese Embassy’s intervention, Malacañang on Thursday dismissed insinuations that Beijing was behind the unauthorized entry of the Ming Long Yu into Tubbataha.

“At this point, we’re treating it the way it looks, it’s a Chinese fishing vessel, not government-owned, and that it ran aground by accident,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters in the Palace.

“At this point, we have no reason to believe otherwise,” he added.

The filing of charges against the Chinese fishermen followed President Aquino’s promise of swift legal action to quickly resolve the violations of Philippine environmental and maritime security laws.

US Navy case

The Ming Long Yu is the second foreign vessel to run aground on Tubbataha Reefs this year.

On Jan. 17, the US Navy’s minesweeper, the USS Guardian, ran aground on the south atoll of Tubbataha, damaging over 2,000 square meters of coral reef in the sanctuary.

The Guardian had to be dismmantled piece by piece to prevent further damage to the reef, in a salvage operation that took 10 weeks.

The damage would cost the US Navy $1.4 million in fines, which environmentalists and some lawmakers find too small. They want the government to press the investigation to determine further US liability for the damage to the reef.

Responding to criticism of the government’s speedy legal action against the Chinese fishermen and its kid glove handling of the US Navy in the Guardian incident, Carandang said: “Those are two separate incidents. They are not apples to apples. One is a military ship of an allied country that was here with our permission, involved in our mutual defense. The other is a private fishing vessel, which was here without permission [and] for commercial reasons. So clearly, the different natures of these [incidents] necessitate different responses.”


The US Navy has relieved the four top officers of the Guardian while an investigation of the grounding is going on.

“We have an investigation that is proceeding with the Americans, and there are certain laws and practices that we have to abide by,” Carandang said.

He said the goals of the US internal investigation were to find out what really happened and to seek “some sort of reparations for the damages that admittedly were incurred.”

“Nobody believes that this was done on purpose so our idea is, if something happens again, there are certain processes in place that would ensure or that would provide for resolution or reparation,” Carandang said.—With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and AFP

06-16-2013, 10:09 AM
DFA thanks US senators for draft resolution condemning China’s territorial claims

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:34 pm | Saturday, June 15th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has extended its gratitude to members of the United States Senate for a draft resolution condemning Chinese incursions in disputed Asia-Pacific waters and calling for restraint and peaceful dialogue in settling territorial conflicts.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez on Friday welcomed US Senate Resolution 167, filed June 10 in an effort to ease tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

The resolution, filed by US Senator Robert and his co-sponsors Senators Benjamin Cardin, Marco Rubio and Bob Corker, particularly cited China’s aggressive assertion of its nine-dash line claim in regional waters and sought to calm the tense air among claimants.

“We understand that the resolution has yet to undergo the necessary congressional process before it is passed by the US Senate, nonetheless, we extend our appreciation on the mere fact that some US senators have deigned it necessary to express their views on a fundamental issue that affects the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” Hernandez said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

Hernandez said the Philippines “especially appreciates the reaffirmation of the peaceful resolution of disputes,” earlier expressed by top US officials in supporting the Philippines.

The resolution noted recent tension in Asia-Pacific waters, including Chinese incursions into the Ayungin and Panatag Shoals within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, as the Manila government refers to part of the South China Sea.

It also cited China’s “unilateral steps” in laying claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese) in the East China Sea.

The resolution also made reference to the Philippines’ arbitration bid against China in the United Nations, a process that seeks to clarify maritime boundaries in the West Philippine Sea, stop Chinese incursions into the country’s EEZ and nullify China’s nine-dash line claim to the waters.

It sought the US Senate’s condemnation of “the use of coercion, threats, or force… to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo” and “strongly urges that all parties… to exercise self-restraint” in undertaking their respective activities within the waters.

The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have been asserting their respective claims to parts of the South China Sea while Japan and China bicker over the East China Sea islands.

The resolution also expressed support for peaceful and diplomatic means of settling maritime disputes and for the United States’ political and military role in maintaining stability in the waters.

Sam Miguel
06-26-2013, 09:58 AM
Panel to hear PH case vs China now complete

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:34 am | Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) has named the last of the five-member panel that will hear the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over their dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). This after the original fifth panel member resigned last month.

Judge Shunji Yanai, president of Itlos, appointed Thomas Mensah of Ghana, a former Itlos judge, as the fifth member in the arbitral tribunal that will deliberate on the Philippines’ case against China over maritime boundaries in the West Philippine Sea.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said on Tuesday Itlos informed Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team handling the case, of Mensah’s appointment in a letter dated June 21.

Mensah, who was an Itlos member from 1996 to 2005, replaced Judge Chris Pinto of Sri Lanka, who resigned from the arbitration panel in May shortly after his appointment because his wife is Filipino.

“The country will present its case once the arbitral tribunal advises the Philippine legal team to meet on the procedures and schedules of hearing on the case,” said Hernandez in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Yanai appointed Itlos Judges Jean-Pierre Cot (France) and Alfred Soons (the Netherlands) in April and Stanislaw Pawlak (Poland) in March to join Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany whom the Philippines nominated after it filed the arbitration case on Jan. 22.

The Philippines decided to take the legal action against China after exhausting all other means to peacefully settle their disputes in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea which Beijing claims is part of its historical sovereign territory.

The Philippines is seeking to halt Chinese incursions into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and to invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim to the waters, which the Philippines has repeatedly described as an “excessive declaration” of maritime territory.

China refused to participate in the proceedings from the outset, asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the South China Sea.

Sam Miguel
06-27-2013, 10:34 AM
US, PH forces off Panatag Shoal

‘War games not meant to intimidate China’

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:16 am | Thursday, June 27th, 2013

The Philippine Navy’s flagship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, is back in the waters near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), this time not for a face-off with Chinese warships over disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but for five days of joint maneuvers with the United States Navy.

The Philippines’ first warship will be participating in war games with a fleet of American naval vessels led by the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.

Panatag Shoal is a reef in the Philippine Sea claimed by both the Philippines and China and was the site of a maritime standoff between the two countries that lasted more than two months last year.

Far from Panatag

But the war games will take place 108 kilometers away from the disputed shoal, Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, spokesman for the Philippine Navy, said last week.

With the joint maneuvers playing out that far from the shoal, reportedly still guarded by three Chinese coastal patrol vessels, the Philippines and the United States do not expect China to view the exercises as “intimidation,” Fabic said.

The war games, called Exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) 2013, begin Thursday and will run up to July 2.

Fabic said holding Carat near Panatag Shoal and other areas off northern Luzon had been planned long before the standoff with China at the reef last year.

The Naval Forces Northern Luzon is the primary Philippine Navy unit responsible for the exercise.

“The Carat 2013 major objectives are to enhance the current Philippine Navy and US capabilities in naval operations … such as communication, naval gunnery, at-sea operations, maritime interdiction and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations and increase the level of interoperability between the Philippine Navy and the US Navy in the conduct of combined naval operations,” a statement from the Naval Forces Northern Luzon said Wednesday.

It said the exercises would include in-port and at-sea events, individual and unit training, and engagement with the local community, among other activities.

Aside from BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), a PN Aircraft (Islander), Special Boat Team, Diving Team of Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG), Construction Team from the Naval Engineers and Philippine Marine Corps company will participate in the military exercises “to test their readiness and capability,” the Navy said.

It added that the Philippine Coast Guard would have one of its flagships, the BRP Edsa, joining the war games, as well as a helicopter, its diving team, and a visit, board, search and seizure team.

Aside from the USS Fitzgerald, the US Navy will have its salvage ships, the USNS Safeguard and USNS Salvor in the waters off Zambales.

Members of the US Marine Corps and other specialized personnel will also participate in the war games.

The USS Fitzgerald was sent to the Korean Peninsula last April amid tensions between South and North Korea. It also participated in the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, rankling the North.

In arbitration

Technically, the Philippines and China remain in a standoff at Panatag Shoal.

Philippine ships withdrew from the shoal in mid-June last year at the height of a storm to ease tensions in the area.

But despite an agreement to withdraw, the Chinese ships never left and even cordoned off the mouth of the shoal’s lagoon to prevent the entry of fishing boats from other countries.

With nothing to match China’s military might, the Philippines took the dispute to the United Nations in January for arbitration.

The Philippines and China also have rival claims in the Spratly archipelago, a scattering of islets, reefs and atolls in the middle of the West Philippine Sea believed to be sitting atop vast deposits of oil and gas.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the Spratlys in rivalry with China, which claims nearly all of the sea as its territory.

Japan’s defense chief

China is also locked in a territorial dispute with Japan over a group of islands in the East China Sea known to the Japanese as the Senkakus but which the Chinese call Diaoyus.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is meeting Thursday with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who is visiting the Philippines for two days.

Whether the meeting between Gazmin and Onodera has to do with their countries’ territorial dispute with China is unclear, as there was no word about it in the advisory issued by the Department of National Defense on Wednesday.

A recent news report from Japan Times (www.japantimes.co.jp/news) said that Onodera “plans to discuss with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin the current tensions in the region and to work out a coordinated response toward China.”

But even this was unofficial, as the Japanese report quoted an unnamed government source.

From Manila, Onodera will fly to Hawaii supposedly to discuss with US officials its territorial row with China.

Wednesday’s advisory said that Onodera will arrive at the defense department at 10 a.m. and will be given arrival honors.

Limited press con

Onodera will meet with journalists after his call and lunch with Gazmin.

The advisory said Onodera would entertain “a maximum of two questions each from the Japanese media (including members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines) and Filipino defense reporters.

Sam Miguel
06-28-2013, 08:42 AM
PH: US, allies may use military bases

No new military facilities to be built

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:22 am | Friday, June 28th, 2013

The Philippines plans to give the United States and other allies access to its military bases under an arrangement that US forces could use to counter China’s creeping presence in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

But contrary to a foreign news report on Thursday that was attributed to unnamed Philippine Navy officials, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines would not build new air and naval bases.

China had already heard the news and warned that countries with territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea which look for help from third parties will find their efforts “futile.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the strategy was a “path of confrontation” and it would be “doomed.”

The Philippines and the United States on Thursday began five days of joint naval exercises off Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that China occupied after a maritime standoff that lasted more than two months last year.

Clarifying the report by the news service Reuters, Gazmin said the Philippines would allow the United States, Japan and other allies access to its existing military bases under an agreement that would be in accordance with the Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits foreign military bases in the country.

“Let me clarify issues. No, we are not going to construct bases. We will be accepting access,” Gazmin told reporters.

The government is still preparing the access agreement, Gazmin said.

“After that (the agreement) is done, then we will be allowing it, if and when there is an agreement, access,” Gazmin said.

“Then there will be equipment coming in from the United States. Now as far as Japan is concerned, we do welcome other countries, particularly Japan since Japan is a strategic partner, in accordance with our existing protocols,” he said.

Gazmin spoke at a news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who is in the country for a two-day official visit.

Economic plan

Peter Galvez, spokesman for the Department of National Defense, said the plan to move Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy units to Subic Naval Base in Zambales province from Clark Air Base in Pampanga province was a result of the government’s “economic development plan for our regions outside Metro Manila.”

The plan includes decongesting Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila and expanding it to Clark, Galvez said.

“That will affect the current facilities,” he added.

He said the transfer of some of the Air Force’s aircraft to Subic was being studied.

Moreover, Subic has the deep-water port requirements of the Navy’s warships BRP Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio del Pilar, he said.

That Subic is near Panatag Shoal is only “coincidental,” Galvez said.

China suspicious

But China is suspicious about the Philippine bases plan.

Speaking at the Tsinghua World Peace Forum, Wang, without mentioning the Philippines, said countries that “try to reinforce their poorly grounded claims (in the West Philippine Sea) through the help of external forces” will find that strategy a “miscalculation not worth the effort.”

Wang’s comments came days before he is due to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Brunei, which opens Saturday.

The 10-member Asean hopes to reach a legally binding code of conduct to manage maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea. For now, a watered-down “Declaration of Conduct” is in place.

The Philippine bases plan coincides with the US “pivot” to Asia, a strategy that will see 60 percent of America’s warships shifting to the region before the end of the decade.

Visiting forces

It would allow the United States and other countries with which the Philippines has visiting forces agreements to station warships, planes and troops within striking distance of Panatag Shoal and parts of the Spratly archipelago within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea that China insists are parts of its territory.

The plan comes amid China’s increasing assertiveness in staking its claims in the sea, sending large flotillas of fishing boats accompanied by warships on so-called fishing expeditions to areas within the territorial waters of the Philippines and Vietnam.

Vietnam and China have fought naval battles in the Paracels, an archipelago in a part of the waterway that Hanoi calls East Sea, while the Philippines has taken its dispute with China over Panatag Shoal to the United Nations for arbitration.

The Philippine bases plan has taken on added urgency since the standoff with China at Panatag Shoal, which Chinese ships now guard, often chasing away Filipino fishermen.

Ayungin dispute

The West Philippine Sea dispute will again loom large over regional diplomacy next week when US Secretary of State John Kerry joins his counterparts from Asean nations and China among other countries for the annual meeting in Brunei.

The Philippines plans to raise the issue of Chinese ships’ “encroachment” near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly archipelago in the middle of the West Philippine Sea where Manila recently beefed up its small military presence, diplomatic sources said.

China has accused the Philippines of “illegal occupation” of the reef, which is a strategic gateway to an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.

Sam Miguel
06-28-2013, 08:45 AM
n the Know: PH Constitution on foreign military bases

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:27 am | Friday, June 28th, 2013

The 1987 Constitution explicitly prohibits foreign military bases in the Philippines.

Article XVIII, Section 25, of the Constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

In 1991, the Senate voted 12-11 to reject the extension of the US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement, saying the treaty was “one-sided.” The last US ship and helicopter carrier, the USS Bealleau Wood, sailed away from Subic Bay in November 1992.

The US military, however, continues to be a perennial visitor to the country, its visits authorized under a 62-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.

Under the treaty signed in 1951, the Philippines and the United States agree to come to each other’s defense against an armed attack.

In 1999, the Senate ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), clearing the way for the resumption of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States and increased defense cooperation.

According to the website of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, the VFA covers activities approved by the Philippine and the US governments such as joint military exercises, training and planning activities; subject matter experts exchange (formal or informal classroom-type exchanges); civil military operations conducted with units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; humanitarian missions such as relief efforts in times of natural disasters and US ship visits to the Philippines for repairs, refueling and replenishment of supplies as well as rest and recreation of the crew.—Ana Roa, Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
06-28-2013, 09:38 AM
US destroyer joins CARAT exercise

By Ric Sapnu

(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 28, 2013 - 12:00am

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT , Philippines – The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) docked at Alava Pier here yesterday to take part in the 19th Philippines-US Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise.

Philippine and US Naval forces kicked off the CARAT at the West Philippine Sea after an opening ceremony at this former US naval base.

Two more supply ships, the USNS Washington Chamber and USNS Salvor, will arrive today in Subic Bay for the offloading of supplies and equipment for the joint exercise.

Two sea assets and one helicopter of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) would also take part in the CARAT.

PCG Fleet commander Commodore Eduardo Gongona said they would be using their 56-meter multi-purpose vessel and the presidential ship BRP-EDSA (SARV-002) with K-9, medical and personnel from the Coast Guard’s Subic station.

The PCG Air Group would also dispatch its Bo-105 rescue helicopter (PCG Helo-1636) to participate in the military games.

The 19th CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the US Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

The exercises are a boost to the Philippines’ poorly equipped military as it struggles with rising Chinese aggression.

“The goal of these exercises is to further boost cooperation... between the two armed forces and further streamline responses to counterterrorism and maritime security,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

The Chinese embassy in Manila released a statement yesterday cautioning the Philippines and the United states not to exacerbate tensions in the area with its exercises.

“We hope relevant sides should take actions that are beneficial for maintaining peace and stability in the region, not the other way around,” the statement said, citing a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing.

Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said some of the CARAT exercises would be held between Luzon and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Specifically, Fabic said some of the drills would be 108 kilometers east of Panatag Shoal in sea lanes within Philippine territory. Chinese vessels had virtually taken over the shoal and prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing in the area.

Nevertheless, Fabic stressed the war games were not meant to provoke China.

“While the exercises will be between Panatag Shoal and the main island of Luzon, the focus is inter-operability and not targeted against the Chinese,” Fabic said.

The six-day exercises are an annual event but this year they will be held off the west coast of Luzon, close to Panatag Shoal off Zambales province, which China insists it owns.

The Philippines will deploy its flagship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, as well as other navy and coast guard vessels, Fabic said.

About 500 US forces and another 500 Filipino troops will take part in the exercises, according to Fabic.

He said among the highlights was an exercise designed to intercept suspected enemy ships, board them and seize materials they may be carrying that could pose a danger to allies.

There will also be simulated counterterrorism exercises, as well as training in disaster response and increasing proficiency in naval gunnery, he added.

CARAT began in 1995, and has since occurred in several locations throughout the Philippines, including Cebu (2009), Subic Bay (2010), Puerto Princesa City (2011) and General Santos City (2012).

The training events in each CARAT phase are tailored based on available assets and mutual training goals across a broad range of naval capabilities, according to the US embassy Information Office advisory.

CARAT Philippines 2013 will focus on maritime security operations, maritime domain awareness and information sharing. – With Evelyn Macairan

Sam Miguel
07-02-2013, 08:11 AM
US pushes code of conduct

Kerry urges China, Asean to ease tensions in disputed sea

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:27 am | Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pressed China and Southeast Asian nations to act on a proposed code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as Manila reiterated its protest against Beijing’s threat of a “counterstrike” and “militarization” of the strategic waterway.

Kerry, who arrived in Brunei for the expanded session of the 46th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Ministerial Meeting, said the code of conduct would ease tensions caused by territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea and reminded the region that the United States had national interests at stake in the disputes.

Kerry was speaking a day after China, following a sharp rebuke from the Philippines on Sunday for its “massive military buildup” in the West Philippine Sea, agreed to start “official consultations” with Asean on a code of conduct in the sea later this year.

While marking a move forward, the consultations are not seen as a major breakthrough in protracted efforts to bring China into a binding agreement over the energy-rich sea, where Beijing’s assertive claims have sparked rising tensions.

“We have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed, and in the conduct of the parties,” Kerry said in opening remarks at the expanded conference that now included the United States, China, Japan, Russia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

For stability

“We very much hope to see progress soon on a substantive code of conduct in order to help ensure stability in this vital region,” Kerry said.

He attempted to ease concerns in Beijing that the US rebalancing of forces to Asia was aimed at countering China’s rising power.

“We have many goals. We have economic and security interests. But I want to emphasize, importantly, our actions are not intended to contain or to counterbalance any one country,” Kerry said.

China said in a joint statement with the 10-member Asean on Sunday that it agreed to hold “official consultations” on a proposed code of conduct governing naval actions at a meeting with Asean senior officials in China in September.

Accused by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier on Sunday of “increasing militarization” of the sea, China stopped short of saying that the meeting would mark the start of actual negotiations.

China has shown little urgency in initiating substantial talks on the proposed code.

Del Rosario gave a lukewarm response late on Sunday when asked about the significance of the proposed consultations.

“The agreement was that there will be a process that will be started with a meeting in China . . . I’d like to believe that China is earnest in terms of moving forward in this process,” Del Rosario said.

Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan claim territories in the West Philippine Sea.

China claims nearly the entire the sea, including waters along the coasts of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Vietnam and China have fought naval battles in the Paracel islands, while the Philippines has taken its dispute with China over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground west of Zambales province, to the United Nations for arbitration.

Most recently, the Philippines accused China of encroachment when three Chinese ships converged just 9 kilometers off Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly archipelago, where Manila maintains a token military presence.


Two weeks ago, the Philippines sent fresh troops and supplies to Ayungin, drawing a warning from Beijing last week through People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

In a front-page commentary, People’s Daily warned that a “counterstrike” against the Philippines was inevitable if it continued to provoke China in the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking at the opening of the Asean security forum on Sunday, Del Rosario said China’s “increasing militarization” of Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal was a violation of a “declaration of conduct” in the sea that China signed with Asean in 2002, agreeing not to cause tensions in the area.

Del Rosario said China’s persistent “destabilizing actions” in the sea posed “serious challenges for the region.”

In a talk with reporters after the security forum, Del Rosario criticized the People’s Daily statement about a counterstrike as “irresponsible.”

“We condemn any threats of use of force,” Del Rosario said.

On Monday, Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, asserted the Philippines’ call for a legal and peaceful approach to resolving territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

Uncalled for

“That language (about a counterstrike) is uncalled for,” Hernandez told reporters.

“We have always been consistent with our position [on] the West Philippine Sea [dispute]. We continue to push for a peaceful and rules-based solution to the dispute in accord with international law, specifically the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), [through] arbitral proceedings and the early conclusion of the code of conduct,” he said.

Referring to Del Rosario’s condemnation of China’s military actions in the West Philippine Sea, Hernandez said the Philippines considered China’s intrusions into Philippine territory “illegal and not valid [under] international law.”

Hernandez emphasized that Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal are “integral parts” of Philippine territory.

Asked whether China had already responded to the Philippines’ protest against the presence of Chinese vessels at the two shoals, Hernandez said, “We are still talking with them regarding [our call that] they have to respect our maritime zones.”

Hernandez said China’s agreeing to start “official consultations” with Asean on the proposed code of conduct was a “welcome decision” of Beijing.

On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that any progress on agreeing on the new framework would depend on countries following the confidence-building “declaration of conduct.”

Beijing and Manila accuse each other of violating that declaration.

Sam Miguel
07-12-2013, 10:00 AM
Obama warns China against ‘coercion’ at sea

Agence France-Presse

9:33 am | Friday, July 12th, 2013

WASHINGTON–US President Barack Obama warned China on Thursday against the using force or intimidation in its tense maritime disputes with its neighbors and urged a peaceful resolution.

Obama, meeting Chinese officials who were in Washington for wide-ranging talks, “urged China to manage its maritime disputes with its neighbors peacefully, without the use of intimidation or coercion,” a White House statement said.

Tensions have steadily risen between China and Japan, which accuses its growing neighbor of sending an increasing number of ships to exert its claim over sparsely populated islands managed by Tokyo in the East China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam have also charged that China has used assertive means to exert claims in the conflict-riven South China Sea, although tensions have abated slightly with Hanoi in recent weeks.

State Councilor Yang Jiechi, addressing a press event at the end of the two days of talks, said that China supported “freedom of navigation in all oceans” and “will continue to firmly implement its policy.”

The United States since 2010 has repeatedly been outspoken over the South China Sea, saying that it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation but does not take sides on individual claims.

With an eye on the tensions, the United States has boosted military cooperation with Japan and the Philippines — which are both treaty-bound allies — as well as with former war adversary Vietnam.

Sam Miguel
07-12-2013, 10:01 AM
US won’t re-establish permanent bases in PH, says US embassy

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:37 pm | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines — Amid plans to expand its access to the country’s bases, the United States does not intend to reestablish permanent military presence in the Philippines, according to the American Embassy in Manila.

The US Embassy said in a statement given to the Philippine Daily Inquirer that ongoing negotiations seeking to open up Philippine military bases to greater US access would like to expand cooperation between the two countries in the areas of military training and disaster preparedness.

“The United States is not seeking to create or reopen any military bases here. Working with the Philippines, we seek to promote security and stability for our nations and in the region,” Embassy officials said in a statement.

Echoing earlier statements of Philippine diplomatic officials, the Embassy said an agreement on the “temporary access by US forces” would be within the framework of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, which have been governing the parameters of Philippine-US defense ties.

“The United States and the Philippines, as friends and allies, engage in mutually agreed, mutually beneficial military cooperation to enhance the training and capabilities of our forces, strengthen inter-operability for defense as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation,” said the Embassy.

“An access agreement will increase opportunities for joint military training and exercises and allow the pre-positioning of equipment and supplies enabling us to respond quickly to disasters,” the Embassy said of the plan, which has invited criticism from those rejecting US involvement in the country’s sovereign affairs.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington D.C. Jose Cuisia Jr. said Monday in Manila that negotiations continued on the base access plan, first bared by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in June. The prospect cropped up in the course of periodic bilateral consultations between the two countries, the envoy had said.

Cuisia also guaranteed the public that a base access agreement would only be sealed if deemed beneficial for both countries and would be drafted in compliance with provisions of the Philippine Constitution.

The US is the Philippines’ closest defense ally, providing financial and technical aid in bolstering the Philippine military and law enforcement agencies.

The US’ permanent military bases in the country were booted out through a Senate vote in 1992, but Washington has maintained constant defense ties with Manila, punctuated of late by its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

The Philippines is meanwhile beefing up its external defense capabilities amid regional security concerns, particularly the tense disputes over the West Philippine Sea.

Sam Miguel
08-02-2013, 10:13 AM
From Inquirer.net - - -

Obama names next envoy to Philippines

5:06 am | Thursday, August 1st, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—United States President Barack Obama has nominated a State Department intelligence official for the next United States ambassador to the Philippines.

Philip Goldberg, Assistant Secretary at the Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR) at the US Department of State, will replace outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr., if confirmed by the US Congress, the US Embassy in Manila said yesterday.

Thomas will be leaving the Philippines soon, having completed a three-year tour of duty here.

Goldberg, 57, was one of eight officials that Obama nominated to key administration posts on July 30, including the new US envoys to Indonesia, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago, Cameroon, Argentina and Niger, as well as a new deputy interior secretary.

“I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead,” Obama said in a statement that the US Embassy released on Wednesday.

Goldberg, a career diplomat, has served various posts around Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America throughout his career.

A Boston native, Goldberg served as the State Department’s Bosnia Desk Officer from 1994 to 1996, during the Bosnian War. He returned to the home office as special assistant and later executive assistant to the deputy secretary of state until 2000.

He briefly served as acting deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs in 2001 before being posted in Santiago, Chile, as charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission until 2004.

Goldberg then served as chief of mission in Pristina, Kosovo, from 2005 to 2006 before being posted to Bolivia from 2006 to 2008, his last known overseas posting.

His time in Bolivia was punctuated by controversy after Bolivian President Evo Morales kicked him out of the country in 2008, accusing the US envoy of meddling in state affairs amid the political unrest in the South American state.

Bolivia suspected Goldberg of provoking the political opposition and of ordering US Peace Corps volunteers to undertake surveillance in their areas of assignment, charges that Washington denied.

Morales, who figured in the news earlier this month after Europe diverted a plane carrying the Bolivian president suspected of carrying US fugitive and intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden, is known to be an ally of Venezuela, a US critic.

Goldberg also served as an officer at the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia and Pretoria, South Africa.

In his current posting at the State Department, Goldberg is at the lead of intelligence gathering and analysis “to serve US diplomacy.” His office also “serves as the focal point in the State Department for ensuring policy review of sensitive counterintelligence and law enforcement activities around the world,” the State Department said on its website.

His office, the INR, also “analyzes geographical and international boundary issues,” according to the State Department website.

Sam Miguel
08-12-2013, 10:35 AM
On top of the carabao

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:55 pm | Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Voltaire Gazmin and Albert del Rosario, the defense and foreign affairs secretaries respectively, show us why our foreign affairs has always been foreign to us and why we have always been so good at defending ourselves against everyone except ourselves. You see it in their letter to Congress calling for a larger American military presence in this country.

“The Philippines,” they say, “will shortly enter into consultations and negotiations with the United States on a possible framework agreement that would implement our agreed policy of increased rotational presence.” This is apparently consistent with the Constitution because the increased American military presence will be temporary and will not entail new US bases. The Americans will just make do with access to Philippine ones.

This should, quite incidentally, benefit us during times of calamities such as typhoons and earthquakes. The American servicemen can always help in rescue and rehabilitation.

What arrant nonsense. The United States wants to help us in times of storms and landslides, such as those that buried Ormoc and Cagayan de Oro, then it should send engineers and rescue workers. Then it should send relief and aid. Not soldiers. It’s like that photograph that constantly appears—of American servicemen providing dental and health treatment to kids in makeshift tents in the south. They want to help in medical and dental care, they should send doctors and dentists. Not soldiers.

Of course we can do with the United States vociferating against China’s expansionist and imperialist tendencies, however that looks like the most hilarious thing in the world. Of course we can do with the United States expressing solidarity with the victims of China’s bullying, however that looks like the most hilarious thing in the cosmos. All the other Southeast Asian countries do. True enough, the enemy of our enemy is our friend, or at least the enemy of our current enemy is our friend. A concept Vietnam itself, which used to have the United States as a former enemy, has long discovered. That doesn’t mean making the enemy or our enemy an honored guest at our house or, heaven forbid, a permanent guest there. Heaven forbid indeed, except that what heaven forbids, we are only too willing, and eager, to allow.

The promise that the increased American presence will be merely temporary and limited is not just deluded, it is deceitful. Was the Visiting Forces Agreement ever temporary? American military personnel have been overstaying visitors in this country for the last 15 years, ever since Erap, who voted to scrap the US bases when he was still senator, agreed to the VFA. The presence has not lessened, it has increased. It has not tapered off, it has augmented. And now under the guise or pretext or excuse of a Chinese threat, however real that threat is, it means to increase that presence even more.

The infuriating thing about it is that we’re the ones asking them, no begging them, to do it. Of course the United States will always try to put one over us if it serves their interests—that’s what foreign policy is for. But for us to want to put one over our own people—well, that’s why our foreign policy will always be foreign to us.

We do know what the people want. We saw that in 1991 when the Magnificent 12 threw out the US bases. For all the glory Cory brought to us, that point in her rule was not her brightest. She tried to rally the country to renew the bases agreement by calling for People Power at the Luneta, except that no one came. Which showed that People Power is not just something that can be summoned at will, it is something that can be summoned only by a voice that’s there in people’s hearts. The pealing of the bells, if metaphorically, that broke out after Jovito Salonga said, “The treaty is defeated,” could be heard from here to Washington.

Arguably, “increased rotational presence” is not putting up new US bases in this country. It merely means American ships and soldiers having more access to existing Philippine ones. That doesn’t make things better, that makes them worse. At least before the United States used to pay rent, however it was cheap given the aggravation of servicemen mistaking dark-skinned kids for baboy damo. At least before the United States gave employment to thousands of Filipinos, even if those jobs had to do only with drugs, rock and roll and prostitution. At least before the United States gave hangars and shipyards and all sorts of infrastructure, which proved exceedingly useful when they left. Today, they get to stay rent-free. Today, they get to enjoy R & R courtesy of the Filipino taxpayer.

There is nothing temporary about “rotational presence.” At the very least, the Chinese threat can always be magnified to look like a potential invasion, even if thus far it’s only the United States that’s been doing that sort of thing, the last only a decade ago in Iraq. At the very most, the new American strategy is to shift forces from the Middle East to Asia, China being perceived as the real threat, and a real threat not because it harbors weapons of mass destruction but because it has unleashed the tools of massive construction, or growth, while the United States declines.

For our own leaders to impose that view of life on us, that is horrendous. Indeed for our own leaders to try to bring back, when we weren’t looking, an iniquity that took us decades to undo, after much struggle, after much agony, after much blood, sweat and tears; for them to sneak back the myth of “special relations” and the “Liberation” and the Filipino and American soldier fighting shoulder to shoulder in Bataan, that is duplicitous.

The view on top of the carabao may be nice, but it doesn’t make you the carabao. It just makes you the fly perched on top of it.

Before you are swatted by its tail.

Sam Miguel
08-12-2013, 10:36 AM
^^^ And what then are we to do in the face of continuing Chinese aggression over our sovereign territory, Conrad?

You enjoy the freedom provided by America's being the top Mafia don of the world, therefore you have no right to question how that freedom is provided.

Sam Miguel
08-13-2013, 10:07 AM
Talks begin to boost US troop presence

By Aurea Calica

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 13, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and the United States begin talks tomorrow to increase the rotational presence of American troops in the country, including bigger deployment of aircraft, ships, supplies and troops for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

Malacañang said the negotiations would be within the parameters of the Constitution as well as of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

The Philippines and its former colonizer are gearing up for an expanded military cooperation amid China’s growing aggressiveness in staking its claims over vast areas in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

“This week, diplomacy and defense will once again intersect to secure our nation. This week will mark the start of our negotiations with the United States to institutionalize this policy of increased rotational presence through a framework agreement,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo.

“We are steadfastly for peace but we are ready to tap any resource and call on any alliance to do what is necessary to defend what is ours,” he said.

“Transparency is extremely important in these negotiations. Our people need to know that our laws are observed and our interests are protected at all times,” the DFA chief said.

In a press briefing, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said whatever is agreed upon after the negotiations would no longer need Senate ratification.

“However, for purposes of transparency, the panel will be briefing congressional leaders on the status of negotiations,” Lacierda said.

He said the decision to allow increased rotational presence of US troops was based on an evaluation of the situation by the DFA and the Department of National Defense (DND). He squelched insinuations that the US stands to benefit more from such an arrangement.

“We have an interest here also. We act according to what is in our best national interest. It’s a framework agreement. Both sides will have to discuss. Both sides will negotiate on what will be the terms mutually beneficial to both,” he said.

Asked about the possibility that this week’s negotiations would enrage China, Lacierda said: “That is their concern, not ours.”

He said that while the DFA and the DND had secured permission from President Aquino to start the negotiations, the Palace will not be directly involved in the talks.

The Philippine negotiating panel is composed of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

Eric John, senior negotiator for military agreements of the State Department, leads the US panel.

Not a basing deal

“It’s not a basing agreement,” said Sorreta, assistant secretary for American affairs and spokesman for the four-member negotiating team, referring to the objective of the negotiations.

The Philippines kicked out US military bases in 1992 and years later allowed the return of American troops for training and joint exercises.

The new deal will expand these activities.

Sorreta insisted the new deal would not give US forces exclusive use of local facilities or a permanent presence.

“We are engaging in this exercise of negotiations not to please the United States, but in pursuit of our own interests,” Sorreta said. “We are certainly for peace, but we are not for appeasement.”

Sorreta said the first round of talks would be held from morning to evening in the DND office at Camp Aguinaldo.

He did not give deadlines but said both panels are likely to engage in four rounds of talks before an agreement is reached.

“There are things that we can do under the existing agreements we have but we have a policy now with the United States on increased rotational presence and we want to institutionalize it,” Sorreta said. He declined to elaborate on the activities to be covered by any new agreement.

Panel member Batino clarified that any agreement would not cover specifics like the number of US troops or the equipment to be deployed. Such details, Batino said, would be determined by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Pacific Command.

“The framework agreement will only provide general parameters and principles under which the increased rotational presence will be implemented,” he said.

“It’s up to the Philippines to approve each activity, if it feels it is to our benefit and it is not detrimental to our interest or to our constitutional laws.”

Sam Miguel
08-13-2013, 10:08 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Guiding principles

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said sovereignty, compliance with Philippine laws, and non-exclusive use of facilities by the US would be the negotiating panel’s “guiding principles.”

“It is in the interest of further deepening cooperation between our countries that we are engaging each other as regards increased rotational presence,” Gazmin said.

“This will enable the Philippines and the US to conduct activities such as bilateral exercises, including the pre-positioning of equipment for disaster response and development of Philippine facilities, among others,” he added.

Del Rosario, for his part, said the Philippine negotiators had been given “parameters that require them to ensure that our Constitution and laws are fully respected,” and had been tasked “to ensure that Philippine interests are preserved and promoted.”

“If we are to secure our people and our nation, we would need to strengthen both diplomacy and defense. Some time ago, we developed a policy and arrived at an understanding with the United States, our treaty ally, on increased rotational presence,” he added.

He said that by negotiating for increased US rotational military presence, the Philippines seeks to bring to greater heights its historic strategic relations with a key partner.

“By highlighting our treaty commitments under our Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, we serve to keep our region stable and secure,” he said.

He also said that by agreeing to bigger US presence, the Philippines would be able to realize military modernization “even before we are able to purchase the necessary defense systems.”

He said such an arrangement would also enhance the country’s deterrent capability as well as boost maritime defense and security “even before we have ships and aircraft that we need.”

Furthermore, the country’s security forces will have better training in handling and operating state-of-the-art military equipment “even before we have the advanced hardware we wish for.”

“And equally important, our ability to provide our people and the region with timely and responsive humanitarian and disaster relief will be vastly improved,” he said.

The allies have been in talks since 2011, even before President Barack Obama announced his administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy as Washington withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“These negotiations will lead to incremental security benefits and cooperation rather than a fundamental shift in the regional military balance of power,” Patrick Cronin, of the US-based Center for a New American Security, told Reuters. “These talks are an important symbol of a refashioned alliance.”

Last year, the US announced plans to deploy a majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020. The US naval assets would be realigned from a roughly 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about 60-40 split between those oceans.

The US has also increased its military aid to the Philippines from $30 million next fiscal year to about $50 million, said to be the highest level since 2000.

Lawmakers appeal for caution

As the country begins to negotiate for an expanded rotational presence of US troops, Senate President Franklin Drilon cautioned Philippine negotiators against going beyond the limits of the Constitution.

“This is my position, we have a constitutional requirement, any basing agreement must be by virtue of a treaty, duly ratified by the Senate. Therefore, we must look into the facts of this presence. If it constitutes basing, then it cannot be done except under a treaty,” Drilon said.

“They can negotiate, we will not stand in the way. But if it a basing agreement, we will call them to task. But we will not pre-audit them, so to speak,” the Senate president said.

“They know the boundaries of the Constitution and therefore, when they craft the agreement, they must consider the constitutional boundaries,” Drilon said.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a member of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said the DFA and the DND should brief the Senate on what they really are aiming for in negotiating for an increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines.

“We don’t know exactly what the arrangements are, how frequent? We want to know because it could be bases under another name,” said Marcos. “We have to examine this.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chair of the Senate committee on national defense, slammed Del Rosario for hyping up what could have been just an “operational matter” for the military.

“I think it should not be hyped. This might not even need the consent of the Senate. I don’t know why Secretary Del Rosario is drawing attention to himself,” Trillanes said.

He stressed that increasing the rotational presence of US troops should not be linked to current security threats. He said such an arrangement with the US military should be seen in the context of the need to better train, prepare, and equip Philippine forces.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that while House leaders are supportive of the coming negotiations, they want DFA and US officials to brief them on the extent and scope of the talks. He said he had a brief talk with Del Rosario on the matter.

“It doesn’t ask Congress to do anything… and this idea of theirs is more of a coordination of their forces countenanced by existing treaties with US,” Belmonte told reporters.

“Right now we would very much want to find out where this is all coming from,” Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said. “I think Congress would very much like to see and hear who is really asking for this and for what extended purpose, we just like to know the details.” – With Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

Sam Miguel
08-15-2013, 09:06 AM
Negotiating rights

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:29 pm | Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Government officials have taken great care to describe the so-called negotiations between the Philippines and the United States to increase American military presence in the country in soothing constitutionalist or strategic terms. It is what is not being said, however, that worries us.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, for instance, assured the public that the meetings will be “guided by the principles of strict compliance with the Philippine Constitution, laws and jurisprudence; Philippine sovereignty; nonpermanence of US troops in Philippine territory; nonexclusivity of use of facilities by the US side; and mutuality of benefits.” It is important to assert these five principles, if only to emphasize that the Aquino administration has learned its lessons from the fraught history of Philippine-American negotiations.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario made the strategic case. “Our region needs to know that we are steadfastly for peace but that we stand ready to tap every resource, to call on every alliance, to do what is necessary to defend what is ours.” The first two infinitives demonstrate a new emphasis (but an old reality) in Philippine foreign policy; now, in the midst of the ongoing territorial dispute with China, it seems that Manila is openly calling in its markers.

But do these meetings, currently ongoing in Camp Aguinaldo, deserve to be called negotiations? A member of the Philippine panel, Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta of the Department of Foreign Affairs, explained the process in detail. “Activities under this proposed agreement will be covered by our Visiting Forces Agreement. The legal basis for increased rotational presence exists in these two agreements. What we will be negotiating will be modalities and the kinds of activities.”

Maybe. But both the Philippine and American governments are agreed on the need to increase US military presence in the country; both assume that increasing the number of US troops and the opportunities for training for Philippine soldiers side by side those same troops will lead to a more credible defense posture for the Philippines; both recognize that a resurgent China with expansionist ambitions require some kind of pushback—containment in old geopolitical speak. What is there to negotiate?

The notion that the meetings require a “framework agreement” pushes the negotiation metaphor too far; the Americans are not exactly an insurgent group, striving to integrate itself into a sometimes-hostile, sometimes-inhospitable body politic. For one thing, the US government enjoys the advantage of Philippine-wide popularity which continues to elude the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The use of that standby, “terms of reference,” would have sufficed.

Every single official who has spoken on the matter has also taken pains to use a crucial modifier: “rotational.” Thus, Sorreta: “increased rotational presence.” Thus, Del Rosario: greater “rotational presence.” Thus, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte: “The increase, if ever, in the rotational presence …”

The idea, of course, is that rotating the deployment of American soldiers in the Philippines means there is no need for permanent facilities or basing rights, and thus no need for a prolonged and public struggle to draft, debate and ratify a new treaty.

But as we have pointed out more than once, in the last decade or so US military presence in the Philippines has in fact been all but permanent. The soldiers, indeed their units, may come and go, and even the forward deployment sites may be changed, but at any given time there are hundreds of US troops stationed in the Philippines. Government officials must first address this winking violation of the Constitution, for any talk of increased rotational presence to be genuinely credible.

We are also concerned that there is no talk at all, from the government’s side, of an exit strategy, a timetable by which we can measure the supposed improvements in interoperability and training and readiness.

The most important lesson from the complicated history of Philippine-American relations is that the United States has interests of its own, and they never coincide with ours for long. The Obama administration’s so-called pivot to China seems to align with Philippine security needs at the moment—but there is no telling when new conditions will lead the United States to cut, and cut cleanly.

Sam Miguel
08-15-2013, 09:13 AM
^^^ What indeed is there to negotiate?

You pick your side carefully and hope everything works out. That is what all weak countries have done throughout the history of this world, and that will never change, at least not until we become a strong country. For now this is as good as it gets as a choice between two evils. I'd take even the diluted democracy of the United States over the very real authoritarianism of China.

Sam Miguel
08-15-2013, 09:14 AM
Honasan seeks Senate scrutiny of bases access talks between Philippines, US

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:39 am | Thursday, August 15th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Aquino administration’s plan on increased rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines should be discussed with lawmakers especially senators, Sen. Gregorio Honasan said.

Honasan, a former Army colonel, said the implementation of any agreement on greater foreign access to Philippine military facilities should not be decided solely by the executive branch but should be tackled with the legislative, especially the Senate.

“It cannot be done through shortcuts. If they insist that issuing an executive order in this matter is enough, then let’s go back and review the provisions, rules and procedures of the [PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement] before our constitution is violated,” Honasan said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Honasan said there should be no shortcuts in the delicate matter that would involve national security and the safety of Filipinos.

“Any policy that the government wants to implement as regards our security or military should undergo close scrutiny,” Honasan said.

“It poses a lot of danger now that military troops and their equipment will soon arrive in the country. It might create an impression of hostility and just add to the on-going tensions in our troubled waters,” Honasan added.

‘Danger on increased presence’

Honasan warned the administration about the danger of increased military presence because it might add more strain between the Philippines and China. The two countries have overlapping claims over territories in the West Philippine Sea.

“Why is it always that US [that we want on our side] and why not others, especially… neighboring countries,” Honasan said.

Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano wants a categorical answer on whether the US will assist the country if the territorial dispute with China gets too heated.

Cayetano also wants more military aid for the Philippines that he said gets much less compared to the superpower’s other allies.

“For me, we should not talk about their increased presence until they can answer the question on whether they will defend us. Will they participate? Will they help us if we have a problem in the dispute with China?” Cayetano told reporters on Tuesday.

“Are they willing to increase military aid to make it more proportional to the assistance we provide as an ally?” Cayetano added.

Cayetano adverted to the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

“What does mutual mean? It means something that’s in their favor and that’s also in our favor. Before we agree to any concession on the use of our facilities or on having more American soldiers, we should make clear what mutual means,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the US side should specify what the Philippines could expect from them in case of issues arising from the boundary dispute with China.

“I’m not talking about generalities…. Can we count on you or not?” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the country’s representatives should also look into how much or how less the Philippines receives in military aid.

“One advantage of a huge military aid is that government funds are instead used for public services, for roads, for infrastructure, education and health. But to my knowledge, we receive quite less compared to what the other US allies get,” Cayetano said.

The Inquirer earlier quoted Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario as saying that Washington had increased its military assistance package from $30 million next fiscal year to about $50 million, the highest level since United States troops returned to the Philippines in 2000.

“What’s our value to you…? I have no problem that the US is pursuing their own interest as long as it’s mutual, meaning it’s also our interest and our interest right now is that military hardware and modernization are quite expensive and they should share in shouldering these so we can concentrate on economic development,” Cayetano added.

Sam Miguel
08-15-2013, 09:47 AM
US access: Phl territory, sovereignty to be protected

By Alexis Romero

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As negotiations began yesterday for increased presence of American troops on Philippine soil, officials assured the public there is no way such an arrangement will compromise the country’s sovereignty.

“We would like to assure the Filipino people that your government is committed to defending and protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, who heads the Philippine panel negotiating with the Americans.

“We will come to the negotiating table guided by the Philippine Constitution, utmost respect for sovereignty, and mutuality of benefits in any approved activity and deployment of equipment,” he added.

The first round of negotiations was held at the defense department building at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

With Sorreta in the Philippine panel were Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

State Department senior negotiator for military agreements Eric John led the US panel composed of State Department Attorney Advisor Elizabeth Jones, Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, and Capt. Greg Bart.

“I exhort both panels to remain candid and frank so that the outcome of this undertaking will redound to the best interest of our two countries,” Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta said before the start of the negotiations.

The first round of talks started at 10 a.m. and ended at about 3:30 p.m. Details of the meeting were unavailable as of press time but officials are expected to hold a media briefing on the matter today.

Despite official denial, it is widely believed that China’s brazenness in staking its claim over almost the entire West Philippine Sea prompted Manila to negotiate for increased rotational presence of US troops.

More support

At least three more lawmakers have voiced their support for bigger US military presence in the country.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), said an expanded US military presence would deter “China’s expansionist ambitions which target resource-rich territories that already belong to its neighbors.”

It would also provide opportunities for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to learn from their American counterparts, he said.

He said increased US presence could also “provide the Philippines the much needed time to modernize its defensive capabilities.”

Another LP member, Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City, said Congress could always exercise its oversight power if the US military abuses the terms and conditions for its stay in the country.

“This is not a basing agreement, so I don’t think that we are faced with a constitutional impasse on this plan to increase rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines, especially in areas which are part of China’s expansionist agenda,” he said.

He said the planned increased rotational presence should be within the purview of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

For his part, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said such presence would not violate the Constitution so long as the US does not establish a military base or bring nuclear weapons to the country.

“If we lose nothing yet gain an edge in combating internal and external threats and aggressors, the planned increased presence is to our best interests. But we should make sure we retain oversight functions to review its actual implementation,” he said.

“Remember, in this global community it is incumbent upon all nations – whether big or small – to contribute in ensuring the security of all nations. Any tension or aggression that happens in one part of the world affects the global balance,” he added.

But sources in the Armed Forces said the Americans have been conducting military activities in the country for years almost unhampered even without an expanded access agreement.

“They’re now in Mindanao and in Luzon. Under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), their warships and fighter planes are often around,” an official who declined to be named said.

One official said American forces were even camped right inside AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. They also operate a camp inside Camp Navarro, home of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) in Zamboanga City.

He said the communications equipment being used by US forces at Camp Aguinaldo were so powerful that they usually disrupt signals from other communications facilities at the camp.

Some AFP officials also expressed doubts on US readiness to fight for the Philippines against China. “We know it. They will not go to war with China because of us. They are just here to protect their own interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” a ranking official said.

Drone launch pad

In Davao City, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the Philippines may request for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones from the US for certain security operations.

“If ever our security forces would need them, especially in the searches in forest areas, then we may request from them (the US),” Roxas said on a local television show.With Jess Diaz, Ding Cervantes, Edith Regalado, Jaime Laude

Sam Miguel
08-22-2013, 08:59 AM
US defense chief visiting PH next week

By Frances Mangosing


4:24 am | Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The head of US Department of Defense will visit the Philippines next week in a four-nation trip to Southeast Asia.

In a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be in the country on August 29-30, the last of his itinerary of his eight-day tour.

Hagel visits the Philippines as it engages in talks with the US on a possible agreement granting American troops “increased rotational presence” here. The talks started last week.

The statement did not provide the agenda of his visit here.

Hagel will depart from the US on Aug. 22, and will begin his trip in Honolulu where he will meet US Pacific Command Commande Admiral Locklear and visit US Marines at Kaneohe Bay.

Secretary Hagel will then travel to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on Aug. 24-26 followed by Jakarta, Indonesia, the afternoon of Aug. 26 and Aug. 27.

From Jakarta, Secretary Hagel will go to Brunei on Aug. 27-29 to meet with defense counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific region.

On Aug. 28 in Brunei, Secretary Hagel will meet with ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Defense Ministers at their annual retreat. On Aug. 29, Secretary Hagel will participate in the ADMM-Plus meeting.

He will conclude his trip in Manila on Aug. 29-30 and return to Washington the evening of Aug. 30.

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:16 AM
PH wants shorter stay for Yanks

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:32 am | Sunday, September 1st, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The government is considering a shorter duration for its agreement with the United States on the use of Philippine military bases, compared to the usual 20-year period of similar agreements that the US enters into, the Philippine panel said in a statement on Saturday.

The “substantive issue of duration” is among the provisions in a proposed framework agreement that still needs to be discussed further after the second round of talks held at the US Department of Defense at the Pentagon.

“For the Americans, they typically have agreements like this that have a duration of 20 years. Right now, the Philippine delegation is looking at a much shorter duration,” Foreign Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, panel spokesperson, said in a statement released by the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

Addressing delegates of the Asian News Network (ANN) at the Inquirer on Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III said that the Philippines’ ties with its strategic partners, the US and Japan, “are very robust.”

The Philippines has agreed to allow the US and other allies the use of Philippine military bases in Subic and other parts of the country amid tensions with regional giant China regarding maritime claims.

Specific time frames were absent in the agreed upon minutes of the Aug. 29 meeting in Washington, a copy of which the Philippine foreign department released to the press on Saturday with Sorreta’s statement.

The key principles discussed included the “understanding” that the US will not establish permanent military bases in the Philippines and the American military’s use of and access to Philippine facilities will be “at the invitation” of the Philippine government.

The Philippine and US panels have agreed that the increased rotation presence of American troops and equipment in Philippine military facilities “will be temporary and comply with the country’s Constitution,” said Philippine chief negotiator Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino in the statement.

Mutual benefit

Batino added that both sides “agreed that joint exercises and activities under a framework agreement will require the approval of the Philippines and will be mutually beneficial to the individual and collective defense capabilities of the two countries in furtherance of Article II of the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

On Friday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States would not establish permanent military bases in the Philippines, after he paid a courtesy call on President Aquino and met with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Gazmin, however, said that American troops and vessels would be given access to the former naval base in Subic as well as other military facilities in the country.

“Where and what (equipment) can be prepositioned will be subject to prior approval by the Philippine government and based on a mutuality of interest. Any approval will contain specific areas and times for the temporary activity,” Sorreta said in the statement.

The two panels are set to meet again in the US on the second week of September to discuss pending issues, particularly the matter of the agreement’s duration.

The first round of talks was held in Manila on Aug. 14.

The negotiations aim to allow more US troops, ships, aircraft and other equipment to pass through the Philippines, which had hosted tens of thousands of US troops until 1992.

Credible defense

Philippine officials have said an increased US presence was part of Manila’s efforts to build a credible defense posture as it faces territorial disputes at sea with China.

The United States, meanwhile, wants arrangements similar to what it has with Australia and Singapore as it seeks to bolster its ties across Southeast Asia, partly to counter China’s growing military power.

The United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler, held on to Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base in Luzon even after Philippine independence in 1946 but was forced to hand them back in 1992 amid growing anti-US sentiment and a rental dispute.

A new accord in 1999 allowed US troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises every year.

Several hundred US Special Forces troops are already on short-term assignments at Philippine bases in the south, where they train and advise local troops fighting Islamic militants. With reports from AFP, Tarra Quismundo

Sam Miguel
09-30-2013, 10:35 AM
No escaping China for Aquino, Obama

By Gil Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:23 am | Monday, September 30th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Defense cooperation, including China’s incursions into Philippine territory, will top the agenda of President Aquino’s meeting with US President Barack Obama during the latter’s two-day visit to the country next month.

In a radio interview, Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Group, said Aquino and Obama will talk at length on defense cooperation, specifically the “rotational presence” of US troops in the country.

The meeting will be held on either Oct. 11 or 12.

“Whether or not we will sign something during the Obama visit is not something I can answer at this point. What I can assure our countrymen is that these discussions with the US will lead to enhanced security for the Philippines and that’s why we’re entering into these discussions,” Carandang said.

With the pivot of the United States toward East Asia, “our ties will continue to grow stronger,” he added.

Carandang said the talks would likely touch on China’s undiplomatic efforts to expand its maritime borders in the South China Sea, including into portions of the West Philippine Sea.

“I think we cannot avoid talking about this (territorial dispute with China) because that is part of the context of our action to enhance our maritime security. This is one of the biggest issues concerning not only the Philippines, but also Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Japan,” Carandang said.

The Philippines and the United States are currently in the midst of negotiations to step up the joint training of Filipino and American air, naval and ground forces and increased US military assistance to the country.

But Carandang stressed that talks to increase US troop presence in the Philippines were not rushed for completion in time for the Obama visit.

“These discussions have been going on for several months—if I’m not mistaken, over a year now, so we cannot say this is being hurried. We are making slow but steady progress on the rotational presence,” said Carandang.

“We’re hoping that this visit will be very fruitful in strengthening our relations with the United States. This is not only about defense, we have economic, cultural, historical ties that will be discussed during the visit,” he said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. earlier told a local forum that the issue of illegal Filipino immigrants in the US (dubbed TNT or “tago nang tago” for always hiding) would also be on the agenda of the Aquino-Obama meeting. The US Congress is currently deliberating an immigration reform bill that would grant citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, among them many Filipinos.

Obama is visiting the Philippines on the invitation of President Aquino. The Philippines is the last stop in Obama’s Southeast Asian swing starting Oct. 6 that will take him to Indonesia to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders meeting; to Brunei, to participate in a US-Asean Summit; and to Malaysia, where he will deliver the keynote address to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. He will make his final stop in Manila before returning to the US on Oct. 12.

The last visit of a US president to Manila was in October 2003 when Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, passed by for a nine-hour stopover.

“We’re very pleased that the president is coming. As you know, he has a very good relationship with President Aquino. You may recall that President Aquino was the first Asean president that Obama had discussions with,” Thomas had told the press.

Obama, who began his first term as US president in 2009, and Aquino, who became Philippine president in 2010, have officially met at least three times: In New York in 2010 and 2011 and at the White House during Aquino’s working visit to the US last year.

Speaking of overall ties between the Philippines and the United States, Thomas said: “This is not primarily a military relationship. This is an economic, trade and people-to-people relationship.”

Sam Miguel
10-11-2013, 07:52 AM
PH should ‘raise its game’ in dispute vs China – US experts

by Carmela Fonbuena

Posted on 10/04/2013 7:16 PM | Updated 10/04/2013 10:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines should “find a way” to persuade China to agree to a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea) dispute but at the same time prepare its armed forces in case the situation blows up, according to former US security officials.

“What we have to do is to find a way to defend our interest, to defend our sovereignty, to defend rule of law, to defend the proposition that disputes like this are to be resolved peacefully and not by the use of force,” former US Defense Undersecretary Walter Slocombe told reporters in Makati City on Friday, October 4.

“At the same time, to be sensible, recognize that there is a real danger of the incident blowing up and becoming a source of a much greater conflict,” Slocombe added.

Former US Pacific Command chief Dennis Blair said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense have to “raise their game” especially because external defense is a “new mission” it is not ready for.

Blair worked for a long time with his Philippine counterpart in the armed forces and used to represent the US in the Mutual Defense Board, the body that monitors implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines.

“Both Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defense better raise its game in terms of being able to have a strategy-based, multi-year effective system in order to put together the equipment, people, training, the doctrine, logistics support, and the relations with the US required to handling complex maritime issues,” said Blair.

“I have great admiration for the skill and courage and persistence of Philippine officers and defense officials, but frankly it has to organize itself for a more effective manner for this new set of responsibilities which it now faces,” Blair added.

Still focused on internal defense

External threats from Beijing is putting tremendous pressure on the Philippine military, whose resources and personnel are deployed to fight local wars.

AFP chief Gen Emmanuel Bautista aims to “conclude “ by 2016 internal security threats from the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN), the Abu Sayyaf Group, rogue Moro National Liberation Front elements, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF).

Slocombe and Blair are in Manila to attend the “US, China and ASEAN: The Evolving Realities in the West Philippine Sea” symposium at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

The Philippines has sought US assistance in defending its maritime territory. The two countries are negotiating a new military-to-military agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines and allow them more access to Philippine military bases.

The recently held fourth round of talks, however, proved difficult. The Philippine panel said they disagreed with their US counterparts on “critical issues.”

The US is the only treaty ally of the Philippines. Slocombe gave an indirect answer when asked if he thinks the US will take the side of the Philippines in the event that it comes to a confrontation.

“The treaty does not on either side say we go to war instantly if one side, one party, of the treaty invokes it,” he said.

But he added: "Nobody wants unnecessary confrontation. But there is no question that the US will live up to not only its formal treaty obligation [but] its much broader interests. Remember the US has direct interests in this area as well. It’s not simply a question of supporting the Philippines. We have interests in freedom of navigation, powerful interest in stability of the region, and interest in the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes rather than the use of force.”

China is not Soviet Union

The Philippines recently expressed concern that China has placed "concrete blocks" in disputed Panatag Shoal located off Zambales province. Government said it is clearly a "prelude to construction," the same track China took when it claimed the Mischief Reef from the Philippines in the 1990s.

The Philippines and neighboring countries should work together to get China to play by the rules, said Slocombe.

“I think it’s not a situation where conflict with China is inevitable. China is not Soviet Union and we shouldn’t treat it like it was the Soviet Union. But it also means we shouldn’t let China take advantage by not playing by the rules,” Slocombe said.

China, he said, should realize that it is in its economic, social, and environmental interest that the region is stable.

President Aquino has allocated at least P75 billion for the Armed Forces to improve on maritime security.

The Philippine Navy recently acquired two Hamilton-class cutters from the US.

It is waiting for Malacañang to approve a government-to-government contract to acquire 12 fighter jets from South Korea and has recently opened bidding for two new frigates.

The Armed Forces said it has no illusion it can match China's military might but these new acquisitions are necessary for "minimum credible deterrence." – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
11-29-2013, 08:01 AM
DFA: China’s air defense zone hampers freedom of flight

By Matikas Santos


4:27 pm | Thursday, November 28th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday that China’s establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over East China Sea has negative effects on the freedom of flight and safety of civil aviation.

“”China’s ‘East China Sea ADIZ’ transforms the entire airzone into its domestic airspace, infringes on the freedom of flight in international airspace and compromises the safety of civil aviation and national security of affected states,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said Thursday.

“The Philippines calls on China to ensure that its ADIZ preserves regional security and stability,” he said.

The United States (US) defied the move of China by flying two B-52 bombers into the ADIZ without identifying themselves.

Several islands under a territorial dispute between China and Japan were inside the zone.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that China’s ADIZ “increases tensions and create risks.”

“This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” he said.

China Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun made the public announcement of the establishment of the ADIZ last November 23 saying that it was to “guard against potential air threats.”

“An air defense identification zone is established by a maritime nation to guard against potential air threats. This airspace, demarcated outside the territorial airspace, allows a country to identify, monitor, control and dispose of entering aircraft. It sets aside time for early warning and helps defend the country’s airspace,” Yujun was quoted as saying in a report by Xinhua News Agency

“The Chinese government has followed common international practices in the establishment of the zone, with aims of protecting its state sovereignty and territorial and airspace security, and maintaining flying orders. It is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defense rights,” he said.

Sam Miguel
11-29-2013, 08:02 AM
Philippines fears China wants West PH Sea air control

Agence France-Presse

2:15 pm | Thursday, November 28th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines expressed concern Thursday that China may seek control of air space over contested areas of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), after Beijing declared an air defense zone above other disputed waters.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said China’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea on the weekend raised the prospect of it doing the same for the West Philippine Sea.

“There’s this threat that China will control the air space (in the South China Sea),” del Rosario said in a television interview.

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the strategically vital and potentially resource-rich South China Sea.

China insists it has sovereign rights to most of the sea, even waters and islands close to its neighbors.

China has been steadily increasing its military and coast guard presence in the sea in recent years to assert its claim, causing diplomatic tensions to rise and stoking concerns in the Philippines about perceived Chinese bullying.

Del Rosario also voiced concern over China’s declaration of the air defense zone in the East China Sea, where it is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan.

“It transforms an entire air zone into China’s domestic air space. And that is an infringement, and compromises the safety of civil aviation,” del Rosario said.

“It also compromises the national security of affected states.”

The air defense zone requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures”.

The zone covers Tokyo-controlled islands — known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China — where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2013, 08:37 AM
Operation Damayan and a forward-looking PH-US Alliance

by Justin Goldman and Ava Patricia C. Avila

Posted on 12/02/2013 10:00 AM | Updated 12/02/2013 10:01 AM

The immediate aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) has resulted in a flurry of activity to provide relief of the suffering of longtime US ally, the Philippines. This occurs at a complicated time in a region filled with tension emanating from territorial disputes, many of which are centered on contested claims with China, including Beijing’s recent announcement of their Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea. However, China remains an important economic partner for countries with whom it has disputes, including the Philippines. This tension has led several regional countries to call for an increased US military presence, but the sustainability of that US presence has been questioned. The extensive deployment of US forces for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of a vulnerable ally that lies within the aptly named “ring for fire” sends an important signal that the US remains able to respond to contingencies.

Rapid Response

As typhoon Haiyan sped through the Philippines, US Marines deployed the next day providing important relief capabilities. The initial contingent of US forces provided essential assessment as the intensity of the typhoon severed key lines of communication. P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft flew from Japan and began operating out of Clark International Airport in Luzon on November 11. Airborne crews relayed the most current information so efforts could be launched to respond to those who were stranded without food, clean water, and in need of medical care. US forces work closely with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance coordinating efforts and working with the Philippine government to address those most in need. While confronted with one of the largest disasters the country has ever faced, the Philippine government has provided quick clearance for US aircraft, ships, and personnel, enabling the rapid delivery of assistance to affected areas.

By November 13, Marine Corps C-130 aircraft were operating out of the airport in Tacloban, which was at the center of the typhoon, supporting two Philippine Air Force C-130s that had arrived the day prior carrying out around-the-clock relief operations. While access to the airfield was a challenge in the initial days, soon aid was flowing in and displaced civilians were being evacuated out. The US Pacific Fleet ordered the activation of the hospital ship USNS Mercy on November 13, which has experience working closely with Philippine authorities based on past deployments. A week later, the amphibious ships USS Germantown and USS Ashland reached the vicinity of Tacloban to take the lead for relief operations from the aircraft carrier. They arrived with approximately 900 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit from Okinawa that brings with it heavy engineering equipment – dump trucks, bulldozers, and forklifts – to clear debris currently inhibiting response efforts. The amphibious ships employ multiple landing craft that can transport assets ashore including water tanks to address the ongoing demand for potable water.

The rapid response from forward deployed forces that has been demonstrated in Operation Damayan validates guidance in the 2010 Naval Operations Concept, which states that “globally-distributed and regionally-concentrated naval forces are ideally suited for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.” US forces have learned tremendous lessons from responding to disasters in recent years, including Operation Unified Assistance after the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 where expeditionary forces often characterized by offensive military roles provided tremendous “soft power.” During a time of reduced defense spending and concerns about the sustainability of the US regional presence, the message from the actions of US forces during a time of crisis is received much clearer than any statements made from Washington.

Message Sending Presence

Just as the USS Abraham Lincoln responded during Operation Unified Assistance, the deployment of the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group conveyed the critical political will to come to the aid of an ally. In the weeks prior to Typhoon Haiyan, US Navy officials were explaining the effects of reductions in defense spending and how this would force the cancellation of critical deployments and reduce readiness. President Obama had utilized his address to the United Nations during the General Assembly in late September to explain the US approach to issues in the Middle East from the ongoing civil war in Syria to the challenge of Iran’s nuclear program. These realities combined with the cancellation of a trip to the region to visit Manila and attend two key regional summits, heightened the sense of concern over US staying power in the Asia-Pacific.

However, when the hour of need arrived, the Carrier Strike Group brought critical assets to bear such as its 21 helicopters that provide essential lift to transport emergency supplies. The image of a US aircraft carrier, particularly the USS George Washington as a mainstay in the region with its home port in Japan, conveys a persistent US presence. The large-scale response from the US comes shortly after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced that talks for an increased rotational presence of US forces and greater access to Philippine facilities had reached an “impasse” after their fourth round concluded in October. Just as the humanitarian response in Indonesia enhanced the standing of the US following relief operations in 2004, the next round of talks will be one measure to gauge the impact of US relief operations on policymakers in Manila.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2013, 08:38 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Regional Dynamics

During a June 2013 visit of Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to Manila, Secretary Gazmin explained the Philippines willingness to offer expanded access to its facilities for Japan, similar to what it is pursuing with the US. In September, the Philippine Navy sent the first contingent to train in Australia under the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement that was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2012. The long-term US objective to network its Asian allies was also demonstrated in Operation Damayan. The strong reactions from Australia and Japan to Typhoon Haiyan are evidence of a growing trend.

The response to the 2004 tsunami showed the utility of integrating a diverse coalition during Operation Unified Assistance, which relied significantly on Australia and Japan. Three days after the tsunami struck an Australian C-130 landed at Banda Aceh airfield with medical and relief supplies, with a field hospital following shortly, and an amphibious ship arriving in early January 2005 with engineering assets and personnel. Japan responded to an Indonesian request for assistance by deploying C-130s and three naval vessels. Japanese vehicles that came ashore were of particular value as local authorities cited their clearing of roads as essential to reestablishing the road link between Banda Aceh and southwestern districts that sustained heavy damage. Following the 2011 triple disaster in Fukushima, Australian C-17 transport aircraft were on station within days providing critical heavy lift in support of the Government of Japan, reinforcing the pattern of cooperation on disaster relief.

Just days after the typhoon struck, Australia deployed a C-130 and a C-17 to transport a medical team with 25 tons of emergency and medical supplies that established a field hospital at Tacloban Airport, filling an urgent requirement as the city’s main hospital was without power or water. The deployment of the HMAS Tobruk, a roll-on/roll-off heavy lift transport vessel, followed from Townsville, Australia en route to the Philippines. As HMAS Tobruk got underway, a Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) C-130 transport aircraft landed in Roxas City delivering critical food supplies to Capiz province. Its deployment of 1,180 SDF personnel along with key naval platforms including the JDS Ise destroyer and the amphibious ship JDS Osumi marks Japan’s largest international disaster relief mission to date.

After ample criticism for its very meager aid and slow response, Beijing confirmed the deployment of its 14,000-ton hospital ship “Peace Ark” to support relief operations. Its lackluster response will do little to reassure neighboring countries worried about a more assertive China in regional and global affairs. While some Southeast Asian countries provided limited assistance to the Philippines, the rapid and extensive responses from the US and its allies serves to highlight the shortcomings in ASEAN by calling into question the capacity of the regional bloc, despite the heavy emphasis placed on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance over the past decade.

While initial intent is rightly focused on meeting the needs of those suffering from the effects of Typhoon Haiyan, the broader implications are clear. The scale of the response effort by the US and its allies directly counters the narrative of a budget-constrained US unable to uphold its commitments in the Asia-Pacific. As the Philippines remains vulnerable to natural disasters, it is important to conclude the talks for an expanded regional presence, as this effort will enhance the Armed Forces of the Philippines ability to deal with territorial threats and respond to natural disasters. Enhanced interoperability will allow the US to provide a more effective response during future disaster relief operations. The strong support from Australia and Japan bodes well as both countries have reaffirmed their engagement with the Philippines and responded in a time of duress. With the challenge of security in regional waters showing no signs of abating, this level of cooperation is encouraging for Manila and Washington looking ahead.

Justin Goldman is an Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University and Ava Patricia C. Avila is a PhD Student at Cranfield University.

Sam Miguel
12-18-2013, 12:56 PM
Kerry in Philippines to propel troop deal as China row simmers

Agence France-Presse

12:50 pm | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Philippines Tuesday for a two-day trip that could fast-track a deal on expanding the US military presence as a territorial dispute simmers with China.

Kerry will also visit areas devastated by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) last month, highlighting a massive US humanitarian response to the disaster which contrasted with a modest contribution from regional power China.

“Kerry’s visit can be expected to act as a catalyst for change,” John Blaxland, a security and defense analyst at Australia National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, told AFP.

Washington and Manila are in the final stages of hammering out a deal allowing more US troops, aircraft and ships to temporarily pass through the Philippines, where the last US bases closed in 1992.

“He will be eager to leverage the visit to speed up and finalize arrangements and assure the Philippines and other regional powers that the US is not just a fair-weather friend,” Blaxland said.

The United States, the former colonial power in the Philippines, has been the greatest contributor of aid following the typhoon which left nearly 8,000 dead or missing, and four million people homeless.

Washington deployed an aircraft carrier group and committed 1,000 Marines and $20 million in a mobilization that served as a preview of the deal’s intensified defense engagement.

Beijing meanwhile drew scorn with an initial offer of just $100,000 to the Philippines, a Washington ally with which it is locked in a dispute over sovereignty of islands in the strategically vital West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said Washington’s humanitarian response could help it secure the military pact with Manila.

“America’s immediate, massive and generous support in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan could well hasten negotiations on US military rotational deployments through the Philippines,” he said.

China’s growing assertiveness in the region as well as the increasing frequency of deadly natural disasters in the Philippines “underscore the growing importance of Manila’s alliance with Washington,” Storey said.

Kerry, who is touring the Philippines for the first time since taking office, will hold talks in Manila on Tuesday before traveling to the typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City on Wednesday.

He will meet with his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario, as well as President Benigno Aquino, who has been rallying pro-US sentiment to blunt China’s muscle-flexing in the region.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in recent years as Beijing becomes more forthright in asserting its claim over most of the potentially resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

Earlier this year, Manila took Beijing to a United Nations tribunal over the contested Scarborough Shoal, which lies about 220 kilometers (135 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and has been occupied by Chinese vessels since last year.

In a bid to showcase its increasing military alliance with the United States, Manila held war games near the territory earlier this year, further stoking tensions with Beijing.

China’s recent declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea – which has infuriated Japan and South Korea – has also raised concerns in the Philippines.

Storey said that while Beijing had not officially declared a similar air cover for the West Philippine Sea “it might do so in the near future.”

“During Kerry’s visit to the Philippines, both sides will likely reiterate the importance of freedom of navigation at sea and in the air,” he said.

The United States already has a long-time ally in the Philippines – until 1992 it had a permanent military presence at two bases in the island nation.

The bases were closed amid nationalist opposition, but the current administration led by Aquino has repeatedly said it wants to build a stronger alliance with the US.

Kerry will complete a three-day tour of Vietnam Tuesday, a trip aimed at shoring up ties with Southeast Asia during which he said the US will help regional nations patrol their territorial waters.

Sam Miguel
04-30-2014, 09:12 AM
Here's the answer we've all been waiting for...

Obama reiterates pledge to secure PH ironclad

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:30 am | Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—“Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone,” US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, repeating a statement he made at the state dinner on Monday night.

Obama addressed his brief, spontaneous remarks to 200 Filipino and American soldiers at the sweltering Army Gym in Fort Bonifacio before his departure after an overnight stop in Manila.

Quoting from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Obama on Tuesday vowed to defend the Philippines and warned potential aggressors that allies never stand alone.

Quoting from the MDT, Obama said that both nations have pledged to help defend each other “against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.”

He emphasized that “deepening our alliance is part of our broader vision for the Asia-Pacific,” a reference to his “pivot to Asia” policy.

Obama said that territorial integrity and sovereignty needed to be respected, reiterating support for the Philippines’ protest in the UN arbitral committee to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its giant lake.

“We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force,” Obama said.

Although the American president told a news conference on Monday that “our goal is not to contain China,” the state-run China Daily on Tuesday said in an editorial that Obama’s visit to South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines made it “increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent.”

Obama said that the new 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed on Monday would support efforts to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines, pave the way for more joint military training and exercises. “American forces can begin rotating through Filipino airfields and ports,” he said.

During Monday’s joint news conference, President Aquino acknowledged the Philippines’ anemic military capability, saying it doesn’t even have a single fighter aircraft on its inventory or helicopters capable of reaching remote areas in the country in times of emergency.

No permanent US bases

The new defense arrangement emphasizes the interoperability of the two militaries as well as capacity-building measures toward the modernization of the AFP, regarded as one of the weakest militaries in the region.

The Edca is also designed to strengthen the Philippine military for external defense, maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The Edca, which has come under heavy criticism, ensures that there would be no permanent US bases in the Philippines and there would be joint use of the facilities by the Philippine and US militaries. The Edca gives full Philippine control over these facilities.

The joint training exercises to be designed under Edca are aimed at enhancing AFP capabilities and ensures a US commitment for long-term AFP capability buildup.

Filipino Navy officer cited

In his remarks on Tuesday, Obama made special mention of a Filipino Navy SEAL and three American military officers who were among the first responders to the devastated Tacloban City a day after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hit the country on Nov. 8, 2013.

Obama asked Capt. Roy Trinidad of the Naval Special Operations Group, Marine Col. Mike Wylie, Army Maj. Leo Liebreich and Air Force Maj. George Apalisok, who were seated in front, to stand up and be recognized.

The four men were among those who worked together to determine how help could be brought in by their respective militaries given the devastation in Tacloban.

Yolanda teamwork cited

Obama compared the alliance of the Filipino and US war veterans to the same teamwork that the present crop of Filipino and US soldiers showed in several joint efforts, including their response to Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“The spirit of these veterans—their strength, their solidarity—I see it in you as well when you train and exercise together to stay ready for the future, when our special forces—some of you here today—advise and assist our Filipino partners in their fight against terrorism, and when you respond to crises together, as you did after Yolanda. Along with your civilian partners, you rushed into the disaster zone, pulled people from the rubble, delivered food and medicine. You showed what friends can do when we take care of each other,” Obama said.

Leyte landing 70th year

He noted that his visit to the Philippines coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte during World War II “and the beginning of the liberation of the Philippines.”

He honored the American and Filipino war veterans present at the Army Gym who fought in World War II, endured the hardships in Bataan and Corregidor, and survived the Death March and the war camps by asking his audience to give them a standing ovation.

Most of them are in their nineties and were in wheelchairs assisted by their families and caregivers.

Obama acknowledged that the US had failed to recognize the “proud service” of many of the Filipino veterans, such as being “denied compensation as they had been promised.”

“It was an injustice. So in recent years, my administration, working with Congress and others, have worked to right this wrong. We passed a law, reviewed the records, processed claims, and nearly 20,000 Filipino veterans from World War II and their families finally received the compensation they had earned. And it was the right thing to do,” Obama said.

Sam Miguel
11-18-2014, 08:18 AM
Battle over legality of Edca starts

Jerome Aning


Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:35 AM | Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court starts oral arguments Tuesday on the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed last April by the Philippines and the United States.

The Edca challengers, led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada and leftist party-list lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc, claimed the agreement violated the Constitution’s provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest.

They particularly focused on the provision on “agreed locations” or areas inside Philippine military bases and camps where the US can build facilities, station troops and materiel, and exercise exclusive control and jurisdiction.

The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the government, said in its consolidated comment that the Edca was an exercise of President Aquino’s prime duty to defend the national security and did not mean the return of US military bases, as alleged by the petitioners.

Named respondents in the suit were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who signed the Edca, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario Jr. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and other officials.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said Saguisag would deliver the opening remarks for the petitioners, while lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua, Rachel Pastores and Pacifico Agabin, a former University of the Philippines law school dean, will argue the case for the Edca challengers.

“We will set out to prove that the Edca is a new basing agreement whose provisions violate the Philippine Constitution. We will argue that the Edca’s provisions go beyond existing agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. We will also point out that President Aquino, in entering into the Edca, violated the Constitution,” said Reyes, one of the petitioners.

In an advisory issued by the court en banc and signed by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal, the high tribunal set six main issues to be tackled during the oral arguments.

Among these are whether or not Edca is a treaty that needs Senate concurrence; whether Edca deprives the Supreme Court of its judicial authority; and whether there are limits to the constitutionally assigned sphere of discretion of the President concerning foreign relations matters.

Also to be discussed are the legal standing of the petitioners, as well as whether the cases are justiciable.

Meanwhile, the mother and sisters of slain transgender Jennifer Laude also filed a petition-in-intervention in the high court on Monday afternoon, seeking to participate in the case.

Sam Miguel
11-18-2014, 08:22 AM
Edca: Treaty or executive agreement?

Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:53 AM |

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–What is the main legal question regarding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca)?

What will be debated Tuesday in the Supreme Court is whether the Edca is a treaty or an executive agreement. Both of these bind the Philippine government in its dealings with other governments, but each has different constitutional requirements to become valid. The Philippines has signed the Edca merely as an executive agreement, but the petitioners before the Supreme Court have challenged this.

The Supreme Court has long held that under international law, executive agreements and treaties are practically the same in their ability to bind the Philippine government to an agreement with another government. “[T]here is no difference between treaties and executive agreements in their binding effect upon states concerned,” the court said.

A treaty needs the concurrence of the Senate in order to be valid while an executive agreement needs only the signature of the President or his representative without need of Senate concurrence. The Edca was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and wasn’t submitted for Senate ratification.

The Constitution says: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.” However, the Supreme Court has explained that “executive agreements” are not subject to that requirement. “Treaties are formal documents which require ratification by the Senate, while executive agreements become binding through executive action without the need of a vote by the Senate or by Congress.”

A full-fledged treaty is required only when an agreement involves changes in Philippine national policy, and the agreement must therefore be submitted to the Senate for ratification. On the other hand, when an agreement merely implements already existing treaty obligations, laws or policy, an executive agreement will suffice. – Paolo Miguel Q. Bernardo, Contributor

02-16-2015, 08:11 AM
‘US behind Oplan Exodus’


Julie S. Alipala


Inquirer Mindanao

12:22 AM | Monday, February 16th, 2015

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The operation to get Zulkifli bin Hir, the Malaysian bomb terrorist known as “Marwan,” was a US-directed project from start to finish, according to an officer of the Special Action Force (SAF), the elite group that carried out “Oplan Exodus” at the cost of the lives of 44 police commandos.

The SAF source said that aside from providing a training facility at La Vista del Mar Beach Resort in Upper Calarian village in Zamboanga City, the Americans gave the needed logistics, including bribing Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels to get near Marwan, who had a $6-million bounty on his head put up by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The Americans started this. They funded the operation, including intelligence,” said the SAF officer, who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

Marwan was likely killed in the operation, as indicated by initial DNA tests conducted by the FBI that showed a sample from his finger, cut off by another SAF officer, matched DNA from his brother who is detained in California.

The operation, however, ended with 44 SAF troopers slaughtered when, after killing Marwan, they clashed with rebels belonging to the MILF and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). At least 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also reported killed.

The source said that in the operation called Oplan Exodus, the Americans tapped the SAF’s 84th Company and trained its members at La Vista del Mar Resort, owned by the family of Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar told reporters that what she knew was that the facility at the resort was donated by “el Americano.”

No comment

There was no immediate comment from the US Embassy, which earlier denied involvement in the Mamasapano operation.

Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander, insisted in congressional hearings last week that the only American involvement in the botched mission was in the medical evacuation of the casualties.

The SAF Seaborne unit in Calarian, the 84th Company, was led by its newly appointed commanding officer, Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi, who was among those killed in Mamasapano. But the source said an American named Allan Konz was in fact in command, not Tabdi who cut off Marwan’s finger for the DNA testing later done by the FBI.

“He (Konz) was the immediate supervisor of the 84th for Marwan’s intelligence packet,” the source said.

The source added that at the height of the Mamasapano operation, Konz was in the command post at the 43rd SAF Company based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao province.

Napeñas has admitted that during the Mamasapano operation, he was at the command post in Shariff Aguak. He, however, did not say if he was in the company of Americans.

“Come to think of it, the Americans dictated every move. In the Mamasapano operation, the Americans made the arrangement, they paid two MILF men who served as guides. Napeñas was just following the Americans because if he did not, the Americans would withdraw their support,” the source said.

US decision

He said it was the Americans’ decision not to include other units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and if there was coordination, it was for close intelligence work.

“During the planning, the Americans really did not want to coordinate with the Army. If there was going to be coordination, they would rather give the operation to another unit,” the source said.

Napeñas has been criticized for not coordinating with the military or with the MILF, which is talking peace with the government. Napeñas said he did not trust the MILF, citing past incidents when there were leaks on operations against high-value targets.

The original Oplan Exodus was “to fuse” the 55th and 84th Companies, the source said.

“The two companies were supposed to be together as an assault group and the other units would just serve as support, but the Americans did not want it that way; they wanted the 84th as the assault team,” the source said.


The source added that during the planning, the operatives were assured of reinforcements—300 SAF men, the Army’s mechanized unit, which were just 3 kilometers from Mamasapano, and “indirect fire.”

During the actual operation on Jan. 25, the 84th Company was the assault group while the 55th served as a blocking force. Some 300 other SAF men maintained a distance of about 2 to 3 km from the target area.

Aside from the 44 SAF members, two MILF members who served as civilian guides were also killed in the fighting.

“In this intel packet, the Americans paid some MILF members,” the source said, adding that there was a separate intelligence packet for local terrorist Basit Usman, who remains at large.

The source blamed the US forces who altered the operational plan and the delayed actions of President Aquino for the deaths of the 44 police commandos.

“The Americans used us. For us, we can allow ourselves to be used only to gain knowledge and expertise, but not end up like this,” the source said.

salsa caballero
02-16-2015, 10:51 PM
America will only defend us from Chinese adventurism IF it is in their interests to do so. In other words 50-50 at best. The 1951 MDT is in force, you may say, but the Kano have been non-committal when the Spratleys are in point. They have also thumbed down our requests for war materiel that could even the odds somewhat, if reports are to be believed. It is on this note that I am fully supportive of the AFP's move to diversify its sources of armaments. To wit: Turkish APC's, Polish and Italian choppers, Israeli radar and Korean trainer jets. If we decide to acquire Israeli kfirs in view of the urgency of the situation, even better, (especially if they are fully networked with our air defense system.)

02-17-2015, 06:41 PM
Another thing is, the US is deep in debt with China so that is also a 50-50.

05-17-2015, 06:26 PM
Binay: We can't afford an inexperienced leader

Posted at 05/17/2015 1:16 PM
MANILA - Vice President Jejomar Binay said the fresh attacks against him and his family won’t stop him from pursuing the presidency in 2016.

Binay also warned that it would be risky to entrust the country to a person without experience and competence.

"I sincerely believe that the issue in this coming election - for the presidency particularly - is experience and competence. Mahirap na. We have undergone and still undergoing so many things that could not have been serious problems were it not for the fact that one does not have experience and competence,” said Binay, who went around public markets in Cagayan de Oro Sunday.

Binay’s critics are expected to reveal more “exposes” against the Vice President in the coming weeks. A Senate sub-committee is already on its 20th hearing on the alleged corruption in Makati, where Binay’s family reigns.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV earlier tagged the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report on Binay’s accounts as the nail in the coffin of Binay’s presidential dreams.

Binay, however, had accused AMLC of conniving with his critics as a means to persecute him.

Binay said there is no need to waive bank secrecy laws in connection with the issue since “the AMLC has already opened and frozen all my bank accounts and insurance policies, including those of my wife, son, and several friends and associates. This act was done even before a complaint filed against me has been resolved by the Ombudsman and decided with finality by the courts. Further, in violation of the AMLA law, this has been deliberately leaked to the media and widely publicized in all fanfare and screaming headlines.”

Binay’s spokesperson for political affairs, Rico Quicho, said the leaked “one-sided report” is “the start of their last ditch efforts to malign the Vice President” as the survey season draws near.

“The Vice President's political detractors are clearly capitalizing on trial by publicity through fishing of evidence and shame campaign,” he said.

Based on information they got, Quicho said the issue on the Rosario, Batangas property will be revived again soon.

“As we enter the survey season, we expect within the next few weeks the NBI and DOJ [Department of Justice] to resurrect the Rosario property issue despite clear statements and evidence showing Tony Tiu's company as its owner. We also expect the Ombudsman to press its obsession to suspend Mayor Jun Binay despite the clear absence of factual and legal basis,” Quicho said.

“Regardless, the Vice President is steadfast to protect his rights under the rule of law and pursue actions to vindicate the wrong done so he can continue his fight to uplift the lives of our people,” he added.

05-18-2015, 11:35 AM
PH fishers recount ordeal near shoal

MASINLOC, Zambales—Foreign journalists on Saturday documented firsthand accounts of Filipino fishermen who operate near the disputed Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea.

“It felt like we were up against a Chinese warship,” said fisherman Viany Mula, 43, who narrated his experience of aggression by the Chinese Coast Guard patrolling the shoal. He was among the fishermen who were driven away by the water cannons fired by the Chinese in January last year.

Really scared

Mula talked with 15 journalists, who are fellows under the Hawaii-based East-West Center’s (EWC) Jefferson fellowship program and are here to study territorial disputes.

“We were really scared when they fired water at us. We just wanted to fish in that area,” said Mula, a fishing boat captain who was with a fleet of Filipino fishermen at that time when bad weather forced them to take refuge at the shoal. Suddenly, he said, they were assaulted with water cannons by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.

Aside from China’s sea patrols there, a Chinese helicopter drove the fishermen away in April 2013, said Macario Forones, 56, owner of several boats that were sprayed with water by the Chinese vessels. The helicopter, he said, chased them up to 16 kilometers.

Forones said his crew had been fishing near the shoal for more than a decade now. The aggression of Chinese near the shoal was first experienced by local fishermen in 2011, he said.

“The last time I sailed near the shoal was on April 6, 2013. We were again driven away by the Chinese Coast Guard. I have not returned since then,” Forones said.

Harvesting clams, corals

Another fisherman, Peter Manglicmot, 40, said the Chinese Coast Guard personnel had been harvesting giant clams and collecting corals from the waters near the shoal.

Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said some 2,400 fishing families in his province had been experiencing the impact of the ongoing dispute at Bajo de Masinloc.

“While our eyes are glued on [the heated exchanges between the Philippine and Chinese governments], we lose sight of the everyday situation within and along our territorial waters,” Ebdane said at a dialogue with the foreign journalists.

He said local fishermen had become apprehensive about the territorial dispute “affecting not only their means of living, but also the welfare of their respective families.”

Ebdane said he was hoping that the international media “would highlight the day-to-day plight of our voiceless fishermen.”

Provides assistance

He said the provincial government has been assisting the fishermen and their families by providing fishing devices such as boat engines, life vests, gill nets and “payaw” (artificial reef).

Masinloc Mayor Desiree Edora said residents were “disturbed socially, culturally and economically” by the presence of the Chinese in the shoal, which is 230 km from Masinloc town.

“We cry for justice for the good of the Filipino community. We need to fight for our sovereignty and let the Philippines be Philippines for all Filipino people,” Edora said.

Fresh insights

One of the foreign journalists, Dr. Rungthip Chotnapalai, news anchor of Bangkok-based Thai Television Channel 3, said the journalists’ visit had allowed her to get fresh insights from local fishermen directly affected by the territorial disputes.

“We’ve learned so much about the condition of the fishermen. I’ll be reporting about this when I go back to Thailand so our viewers will be aware of this issue,” she told the Inquirer.

Ann Hartman, EWC Jefferson fellowship program coordinator, said the journalists were traveling together to study “crucial South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) issues.”

The 15 delegates represent various news organizations worldwide, said Dr. Gerard Finin, EWC Pacific Islands Development Program director. They include journalists from Australian Broadcasting Corp., Kyodo News, The Times of India, The Washington Post and other print and broadcast news organizations.

05-21-2015, 04:06 PM
‘Go away,’ China tells US spy plane in West PH Sea — report
2:07 PM | Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Frances Mangosing

The Chinese Navy warned a US surveillance plane flying over the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), CNN reported on Wednesday.

“Foreign military aircraft, this is the Chinese Navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately…You go!” a Chinese radio operator told the aircraft, where a CNN team was also on board.

The US used a P8-A Poseidon, their most advanced surveillance and submarine-hunting aircraft, which flew at 15,000 feet, its lowest point.

It was the first time the Pentagon had allowed to show a video of China’s building activities and the Chinese Navy’s warning to a US plane, CNN said.

During the mission, which aimed at monitoring Chinese activities, the US military pilots were ordered out of the airspace eight times.

“We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy, and I’m highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here,” Parker told CNN of the Chinese message for the US plane, as he pointed to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef.

Aside from the early warning station, Fiery Cross Reef now has military barracks, a lookout tower and a long runway, CNN said based on a video filmed by the P8’s surveillance cameras.

“There’s obviously a lot of surface traffic down there: Chinese warships, Chinese coast guard ships. They have air search radars, so there’s a pretty good bet they’re tracking us,” Lt. Cmdr Matt Newman told CNN from the cockpit.

The CNN report said the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) that “fleets of dozens of dredgers could be seen hard at work, sucking sand off the bottom of the sea and blowing it in huge plumes to create new land above the surface.”

Panganiban Reef is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines has also experienced warnings from China in its air patrols over the West Philippine Sea recently.

READ: China’s mischief: Expansion, reclamation / New images show progress of Chinese reclamation in Panganiban Reef

China claims most parts of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. Satellite images released in recent months suggest significant progress in China’s reclamation efforts, as it converts reefs into artificial islands.

The Philippines has filed its arbitration case to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over China’s maritime claims. TVJ

Sam Miguel
05-22-2015, 10:04 AM
China, US assert rights after exchange over West Philippine Sea

By Christopher Bodeen (Associated Press) |

Updated May 22, 2015 - 8:31am

BEIJING — China said Thursday it is entitled to keep watch over airspace and seas surrounding artificial islands it created in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, following an exchange in which its navy warned off a U.S. surveillance plane. The United States said its aerial patrolling was in accordance with international law and "no one in their right mind" would try to stop it.

Neither side says it wants confrontation with the other, but as China seeks to assert its expansive claims to the South China Sea, the U.S. is pushing back and trying to demonstrate that China's massive land reclamation does not give it territorial rights.

A news crew from CNN reported it witnessed an incident Wednesday in which a Chinese navy dispatcher demanded eight times that a U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft leave the area as it flew over Fiery Cross Reef, where China has conducted extensive reclamation work. It said the U.S. crew responded that they were flying through international airspace, to which the Chinese dispatcher answered: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

The Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank posted more video Thursday of the aerial patrol above the Spratly island chain which it said had been released by the U.S. Navy.

Speaking at a regular daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated Beijing's insistence on its indisputable sovereignty over the islands it has created by piling sand on top of atolls and reefs.

While saying he had no information about the reported exchange, Hong said China was "entitled to the surveillance over related airspace and sea areas so as to maintain national security and avoid any maritime accidents.

"We hope relevant countries respect China's sovereignty over the South China Sea, abandon actions that may intensify controversies and play a constructive role for regional peace and stability," Hong told reporters.

In Washington, Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said the flight of a U.S. reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the South China Sea was a regular and appropriate occurrence. He said the U.S. will seek to preserve the ability of not just the United States but all countries to exercise their rights to freedom of navigation and overflight.

"Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the U.S. Navy from operating. That would not be a good step. But it's not enough that a U.S. military plane can overfly international waters, even if there is a challenge or a hail and query" from the Chinese military, he said.

"We believe that every country and all civilian actors also should have unfettered access to international waters and international airspace," he said.

China's construction has intensified frictions among competing parties in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety along with its scattered island groups. The area that is home to some of the world's busiest commercial shipping routes is also claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The U.S. and most of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations want a halt to the projects, which they suspect are aimed at building islands and other land features over which China can claim sovereignty and base military assets.

The U.S. says it takes no position on the sovereignty claims but insists they must be negotiated. Washington also says ensuring maritime safety and access is a U.S. national security priority.

China is also at odds with Japan over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing, leading to increased activity by Chinese planes and ships in the area, which lies between Taiwan and Okinawa.

Both sides have accused the other of operating dangerously, prompting fears of an incident such as the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. surveillance plane in which the Chinese pilot was killed and the American crew detained on China's Hainan island.

Also Thursday, the Chinese air force announced its latest offshore training exercises in the western Pacific as part of efforts to boost its combat preparedness.

People's Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the exercises were held in international airspace but gave no specifics. In its report on the drills, state broadcaster CCTV showed a video of Xian H-6 twin-engine bombers, a Chinese version of Russia's Tupelov Tu-16, in flight and landing at an air base, although it wasn't clear when the video was shot.

05-24-2015, 06:50 PM
Chinese blast fishing off Pag-asa threatens island's livelihood
(philstar.com) | Updated May 24, 2015 - 11:05am

MANILA, Philippines — Residents of Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea are not fazed by the growing Chinese' militaristic presence in the disputed waters, but the foreigners' economic practices leave Filipinos worried.

Mary Joy Batiancila, Pag-asa administrator, said fisherfolk are deeply concerned about the banned fishing activities of Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen who intrude in what the Philippines considers as its exclusive economic zone.

Philippine Coast Guard, Pag-asa barangay officials and fishermen would regularly chase or warn illegal fishers away but they kept on returning.

"They are engaged in blast or dynamite fishing. They also use cyanide," Batiancila said.

RELATED: Philippines: China's expansion destroys coral reef, livelihood

As a result, the natural ecosystem and the "bahura" or coral reefs around Pag-asa Island are destroyed and the source of livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk are adversely affected.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
"[The foreign fishing activity] leads to a drop in the fish catch or incomes of our own fishermen," she said.

Kalayaan town mayor Eugenio Bitoon-on said these illegal fishing activities made local officials of Kalayaan and Palawan province alert worried over the condition of the sea, considered one of the richest fishing grounds in the country.

Batiancila, meanwhile, said the area around Pag-asa alone is abundant with turtles, dolphins, manta rays and various kinds of fish.

Pag-asa is surrounded by around 20 to 30 hectares of reefs that are home to aquarium and commercial fish.

It provides livelihood and food for the island's 200 dwellers. It is often visited by rare types of turtles like the endangered leatherback.

Just some three nautical miles away from Pag-asa is a sandbar islanders call the "Secret Island," Batiancila said.

The island is also home to teeming marine life which the Islanders are keeping watch over.

About 25.7 kilometers from Pag-asa is Subi Reef, also of the Spratlys or Kalayaan Island group.

On Subi Reef, China government are undertaking massive reclamation and building structures, in the process destroying sea life and hectares upon hectares of coral reefs.

Bitoon-on said the Chinese seem bent on transforming the reef into a man-made island.

Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen often visit Subi Reef and the Secret Island to gather giant clams from the area, leading to a significant decline of the resource, according to recent surveys by the Coast Guard and local officials.

"We cannot perform arrests against them even though we have the maritime police with us. We do not have facilities and transportation to stand against them," Batiancila said.

She said the least authorities could do is chase away the foreign fishers every chance they get.

"But we can never engage them," she said.

Despite not having the right facilities, the people of Pag-asa and the local officials of Kalayaan and Palawan expressed utmost support in protecting the natural treasures of West Philippine Sea.

Bitoon-on said he is thankful for the support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Coast Guard extend to Pag-asa.

He said he is confident Pag-asa residents are secure and safe in their homes on the island.

For now, local government is keen on developing another means of livelihood for their consistuents—a tourism route through West Philippine Sea which will include Pag-asa Island.

Bitoon-on said the new industry would help generate more jobs and income for those residing in the Kalayaan islands.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, in his May 11 visit in Pag-asa Island, called on people to continue backing the country's maritime and territorial claims despite stiff opposition, especially from China.

"This is ours!" Catapang declared, thereby setting a battle cry for the Philippine military in asserting sovereignty over the potentially gas-rich maritime features.

The military leader assured residents of security for tourism-related plans for the disputed areas, expressing optimism that the rich reefs around Pag-asa will attract domestic and international tourism. - Priam Nepomuceno, Philippine News Agency

05-25-2015, 04:08 PM
Binay vows to improve ties with China if he wins

Posted at 05/25/2015 2:19 PM
MANILA – Vice President Jejomar Binay vowed to fight for the Philippines' claims in the disputed South China Sea if he becomes the president.

'''Pag ako [ay] naging presidente, hahabulin pa natin 'yon. We will continue to claim our ownership of those properties,'' Binay said in an interview in Iloilo.

The vice-president, however, said pursuing the Philippines' claim should not hurt the other aspects of PH-China relations, especially in trade.

''I'll try to improve the bilateral relations, lalong-lalo na 'yong trade relations [ng Pilipinas] to China,'' he said.

In an earlier interview, Binay said the Philippines needs China because of the latter's capital. He also suggested that the Philippines and China instead hold joint ventures in the disputed waters.

''May pera po ang China, kailangan po natin ng capital. Let us develop those natural resources do’n sa area na ‘yon. ‘Yan ay joint-venture. Mapabuti po sana natin ang trade relations natin sa China na hindi ito maapektuhan dahil do’n sa problema natin sa Spratlys,'' he had said.

Binay addressed the issue as tensions in the contested waters continue to rise, with a United States spy plane flying over China's artificial islands to challenge the Asian giant's claims.

The US' move earned the ire of Beijing, raising the risk of a confrontation in one of world's most vital maritime routes.

The West Philippine Sea issue is expected to become a key issue in the upcoming national elections, as the Philippine military aims to upgrade its facilities to build a minimum credible defense against a rising China.

The Philippines under the Aquino administration is seen to be uncooperative with Beijing. Manila earlier filed a case against Beijing before an arbitral tribunal, seeking to invalidate the Chinese 9-dash-line claim over the West Philippine Sea.

05-27-2015, 02:02 PM
Group to protest Chinese firms in Philippines
By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated May 27, 2015 - 1:24pm

MANILA, Philippines - Militant group Bayan on Tuesday warned of more protests against China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea next week.

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that China's business interests in the Philippines can be targets of protests.

"We may not be able, at the moment, to confront China in the seas, but we remind China that its economic interests in the Philippines are legitimate targets of protests. The Philippine government should nationalize businesses such as the Transco where there is a 40 percent stake by China's State Grid," Reyes said.

He also called on the Aquino administration to immediately stop the destructive mining operations by Chinese firms in the country.

Reyes said the Chinese government should refrain from invoking the nine-dash claims since a case has already been filed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and should await for its resolution.

He also said that the Philippine government can keep China's aggression without the help of the US military.

"Allowing US intervention would place the Philippines smack in the middle of an arms race by two big powers in the region. It is not in our national interest to be placed in such a position because neither of these two giants are out to uphold our national interests.

"We want regional peace, not big power provocation and counter-provocation. In the end, we must build our own capacity for external defense through honest to goodness industrialization and development," he said.

05-27-2015, 02:02 PM
Group to protest Chinese firms in Philippines
By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated May 27, 2015 - 1:24pm

MANILA, Philippines - Militant group Bayan on Tuesday warned of more protests against China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea next week.

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that China's business interests in the Philippines can be targets of protests.

"We may not be able, at the moment, to confront China in the seas, but we remind China that its economic interests in the Philippines are legitimate targets of protests. The Philippine government should nationalize businesses such as the Transco where there is a 40 percent stake by China's State Grid," Reyes said.

He also called on the Aquino administration to immediately stop the destructive mining operations by Chinese firms in the country.

Reyes said the Chinese government should refrain from invoking the nine-dash claims since a case has already been filed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and should await for its resolution.

He also said that the Philippine government can keep China's aggression without the help of the US military.

"Allowing US intervention would place the Philippines smack in the middle of an arms race by two big powers in the region. It is not in our national interest to be placed in such a position because neither of these two giants are out to uphold our national interests.

"We want regional peace, not big power provocation and counter-provocation. In the end, we must build our own capacity for external defense through honest to goodness industrialization and development," he said.

05-28-2015, 02:19 PM
China gives 'gentle reminder' to PH, warns small nations

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star
Posted at 05/28/2015 9:30 AM
MANILA - China gave the Philippines a ''gentle reminder'' last Tuesday that Beijing will not bully small countries but warned these nations not to make trouble willfully and endlessly.

“Here is a gentle reminder to the Philippines: China will not bully small countries, meanwhile, small countries shall not make trouble willfully and endlessly. We hope that the Philippine side would stop instigation and provocation and come back to the right track of resolving issues through negotiation and consultation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that China would continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea after the groundbreaking ceremony for a lighthouse in a reclaimed area in the territory on Tuesday.

Hua was reacting to the announcement about the meeting of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in Hawaii regarding China’s large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea and the prospect of China implementing an air defense identification zone in the area.

“The Philippine President reportedly said that Philippine military aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea, and that China should not bully small countries. The Philippine Air Force spokesman said its planes will fly over the South China Sea along the route taken by the US Navy plane,” Hua said.

“I can feel the restlessness and rashness of some people from the Philippines on issues of the South China Sea,” she said.

She said China’s relevant position has been made clear on multiple occasions.

The official said China’s construction on maritime features of the Spratly Islands is to better fulfill China’s international responsibilities and obligations in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine science and research, meteorological observation, protection of the ecological environment, safety of navigation, fishery production and services.

China’s construction of lighthouses in the Spratly Islands, she said, is to implement China’s international obligations and responsibilities, and provide passing vessels with efficient guidance and aiding services, which will substantially improve navigation safety in the South China Sea.

“Going forward, the Chinese side will continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features of the Nansha Islands and offer better services to vessels from littoral countries of the South China Sea and those sailing through this area,” Hua said.

Hua said the South China Sea is a vital passage for maritime transport and one of the important fishing grounds in the world where a large number of vessels pass through, “under complicated conditions” and vulnerable to marine accidents.

An editorial of the Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times said a war between China and the US is inevitable unless Washington stops demanding Beijing to halt the reclamation activities on maritime features in the South China Sea.

Chinese officials distanced themselves from the Global Times editorial, saying it “only speaks for itself.”

But China called on the US to do more things that are placatory and less inflammatory.

05-28-2015, 02:19 PM
China gives 'gentle reminder' to PH, warns small nations

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star
Posted at 05/28/2015 9:30 AM
MANILA - China gave the Philippines a ''gentle reminder'' last Tuesday that Beijing will not bully small countries but warned these nations not to make trouble willfully and endlessly.

“Here is a gentle reminder to the Philippines: China will not bully small countries, meanwhile, small countries shall not make trouble willfully and endlessly. We hope that the Philippine side would stop instigation and provocation and come back to the right track of resolving issues through negotiation and consultation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that China would continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea after the groundbreaking ceremony for a lighthouse in a reclaimed area in the territory on Tuesday.

Hua was reacting to the announcement about the meeting of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in Hawaii regarding China’s large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea and the prospect of China implementing an air defense identification zone in the area.

“The Philippine President reportedly said that Philippine military aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea, and that China should not bully small countries. The Philippine Air Force spokesman said its planes will fly over the South China Sea along the route taken by the US Navy plane,” Hua said.

“I can feel the restlessness and rashness of some people from the Philippines on issues of the South China Sea,” she said.

She said China’s relevant position has been made clear on multiple occasions.

The official said China’s construction on maritime features of the Spratly Islands is to better fulfill China’s international responsibilities and obligations in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine science and research, meteorological observation, protection of the ecological environment, safety of navigation, fishery production and services.

China’s construction of lighthouses in the Spratly Islands, she said, is to implement China’s international obligations and responsibilities, and provide passing vessels with efficient guidance and aiding services, which will substantially improve navigation safety in the South China Sea.

“Going forward, the Chinese side will continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features of the Nansha Islands and offer better services to vessels from littoral countries of the South China Sea and those sailing through this area,” Hua said.

Hua said the South China Sea is a vital passage for maritime transport and one of the important fishing grounds in the world where a large number of vessels pass through, “under complicated conditions” and vulnerable to marine accidents.

An editorial of the Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times said a war between China and the US is inevitable unless Washington stops demanding Beijing to halt the reclamation activities on maritime features in the South China Sea.

Chinese officials distanced themselves from the Global Times editorial, saying it “only speaks for itself.”

But China called on the US to do more things that are placatory and less inflammatory.

05-28-2015, 02:30 PM
Protest set vs US, China ‘threats to PH sovereignty’

Aries Joseph Hegina
1:27 PM | Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Activists and citizen groups are gearing up for a large rally on June 12 to condemn the recent actions by China regarding its claim over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the alleged military presence of the United States in the country.

The Independence Day rally, which has the theme “Hands Off the Philippines,” will be led by former senator Rene Saguisag, actress Bibeth Orteza and Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares. They said that the acts of US and China “constitute real and serious threats to Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The US, as lone superpower, and China as a fast rising regional power, have no qualms riding roughshod over the Philippines to advance their economic and geopolitical-military interests in the region,” the organizers of the rally said in a statement.

They said that Filipinos should be united in defending the country.

“The US and China connive and compete with one another to impose their dominance over the region. This situation demands a united and visible response from our people,” the statement read.

READ: US-China exchange highlights tension over disputed sea

The activists also urged the government to craft an “independent foreign policy” which does not lean on the interests of the two global powers.

“Ordinary citizens need to be involved in defending our land and seas and in pursuing a truly independent foreign policy that neither bows to China’s bullying nor kowtows to US imposition,” it added.

The “Hands Off Philippines” rally will begin with a mobilization in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City at 9 a.m. then will proceed to US embassy at 11 a.m.

China has made the headlines recently after its navy warned off a US surveillance plane flying over the Fiery Cross Reef in the West Philippine Sea, where it conducted massive reclamation work.

READ: ‘Go away,’ China tells US spy plane in West PH Sea — report

On Tuesday, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun downplayed the criticisms of US and other claimants who said that the rising superpower is sowing tension in the region.

READ: China’s army plays down South China Sea island-building

Yujun said that its construction activities in the disputed islands “are no different from other construction activities in the country.” IDL

05-28-2015, 02:30 PM
Protest set vs US, China ‘threats to PH sovereignty’

Aries Joseph Hegina
1:27 PM | Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Activists and citizen groups are gearing up for a large rally on June 12 to condemn the recent actions by China regarding its claim over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the alleged military presence of the United States in the country.

The Independence Day rally, which has the theme “Hands Off the Philippines,” will be led by former senator Rene Saguisag, actress Bibeth Orteza and Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares. They said that the acts of US and China “constitute real and serious threats to Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The US, as lone superpower, and China as a fast rising regional power, have no qualms riding roughshod over the Philippines to advance their economic and geopolitical-military interests in the region,” the organizers of the rally said in a statement.

They said that Filipinos should be united in defending the country.

“The US and China connive and compete with one another to impose their dominance over the region. This situation demands a united and visible response from our people,” the statement read.

READ: US-China exchange highlights tension over disputed sea

The activists also urged the government to craft an “independent foreign policy” which does not lean on the interests of the two global powers.

“Ordinary citizens need to be involved in defending our land and seas and in pursuing a truly independent foreign policy that neither bows to China’s bullying nor kowtows to US imposition,” it added.

The “Hands Off Philippines” rally will begin with a mobilization in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City at 9 a.m. then will proceed to US embassy at 11 a.m.

China has made the headlines recently after its navy warned off a US surveillance plane flying over the Fiery Cross Reef in the West Philippine Sea, where it conducted massive reclamation work.

READ: ‘Go away,’ China tells US spy plane in West PH Sea — report

On Tuesday, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun downplayed the criticisms of US and other claimants who said that the rising superpower is sowing tension in the region.

READ: China’s army plays down South China Sea island-building

Yujun said that its construction activities in the disputed islands “are no different from other construction activities in the country.” IDL

06-04-2015, 10:57 AM
China—a bully in the block

Peter Wallace


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:08 AM | Thursday, June 4th, 2015

The biggest threat today is not the failure of the Bangsamoro Basic Law but war with China. Maybe not war in the traditional sense, but war in the dominance sense. China is determined to regain the power it had in the 15th century when it was the world’s most dominant country.

Its claim to ownership of 90 percent of the South China Sea is clearly preposterous. To say it’s based on history is laughable. History? Way back to 1947, it says. I was alive then; that’s current events.

The claim that its right is incontestable is as absurd and two-faced as everything else it’s saying. The claim is being contested—by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. If China truly believes it owns all this area, it would prove so in international court. That it refuses to do so is, in itself, admission that it knows it has no legitimate claim.

If this is the way China is going to use its growing economic dominance in the world’s political scene, then the world, and particularly Asia, is in trouble. This is irresponsible action by a bully, by someone who knows he can ride roughshod over others. It is not how responsible nations act.

I applaud President Aquino’s stand on this. We may be a weak nation but this doesn’t mean we should just roll over and play dead. It’s sad that the Philippines’ neighbors don’t stand as strongly, but that’s sadly understandable. The large levels of trade and investment create a reality that leaders can’t ignore no matter how much they’d wish to. But then, if all of them did take a strong stand, what could China do? It couldn’t cut trade with all; it needs them, too, particularly as China’s economy and advantages are being whittled down. So a stronger group of leaders in Asia would be helpful.

What I find sad about all of this is that it probably wouldn’t have happened at all if the Philippine Senate had voted differently in 1991.

Twelve senators voted to kick the American bases out of Subic and Clark (against 11 who voted to retain). Now two of those 12 are trying to stop the Edca (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), which allows US military forces to maintain eight small bases here. It’s really quite simple: The Philippines has no military power at all. This is no denigration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines—they are fine, battle-worthy men, but they don’t have nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and a fleet of battleships or the latest-model fighter planes or all the myriad equipage China has. So any war would be over in a day. The United States has all these things in spades—and China knows it. So why on earth would you make it difficult for a friend to help you stand up to this bully, which only the United States can?

This is misplaced nationalistic fervor, if ever I’ve seen it. The Philippines is a nation that its people can be proud of, one that can stand equally with anyone. Accepting the help of a friend should be done willingly. We have a situation today where China is commandeering areas that rightfully belong to other countries through sheer military force. I venture to suggest—and did so at the time—that the Philippines needs the support of a giant. Well, those 12 senators didn’t have enough self-confidence, and confidence in their country as an independent nation, to accept the help of a friend.

If the United States still had a massive presence in Clark and Subic, China would be acting far more cautiously, if acting at all. Having a huge naval and air force presence just hours away would give Chinese leaders pause. The United States is standing strong against China’s incursions, but it needs men and materiel close to the area under contention. We should welcome its wish to do so, even encourage a larger presence.

It probably won’t lead to war, but that can’t be ruled out. What it can lead to is annexation. As Russia has shown in Ukraine, it can take what it wants, and the world won’t stop it. Sanctions, yes, but you can survive sanctions and there’s a limit. The United States owes China some $1.224 trillion, and its estimated trade with China amounted to $580 billion in 2012. During the same year, American investments in China reached $50 billion. There’s an obvious limit to what it can do. War is unthinkable as it would too easily lead to atom bombs being dropped if one side becomes desperate.

So if China wants the Philippines, it can take it. And as its need for minerals is insatiable, and the Philippines has them in spades, the attraction is there. Your kids better learn Chinese.

Am I being overly alarmist? I hope so, I think so, but we can’t rule it out completely, can we?

What can reduce the risk is the United States, Japan, Australia and whoever else would like to join, training their armed forces jointly, here on Philippine soil, thereby showing solidarity with us. It will send a strong message.

And for the 10 Asean economies to join together in a strong, united political stand.

But ultimately, the most desirable outcome is for China to stop its construction activities in the South China Sea and agree that nobody owns those islands and jointly explore the possible wealth of the area and share it if any is found, while leaving the seas and all air space open to free, unhampered travel.

It’s time for China to become a responsible member of the international community, not the bullying pariah it’s headed to becoming.

06-08-2015, 07:39 PM
MANILA - Malacañang said that the submission of a 300-year-old map to the international tribunal will boost the case of the Philippines in questioning China’s territorial claim over the South China Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines has “a strong case.”

“Let me just emphasize the fact that China never participated, in fact, refused to participate in the arbitration in the [International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea]. However, China's claim is about historical title. This old map would certainly present the side of the Philippines when it comes to any historical basis,” Lacierda said.

Despite the maritime row, however, the Palace is looking forward to better relations with China.

He emphasized that the country only differs with how the Chinese leadership is dealing with the issue, but has no quarrel with the Chinese people.

“Just to be clear, we have no conflict with the Chinese people. Our conflict, for instance, our differences are with the approach of the leadership in dealing with the South China Sea. But on the whole, with respect to the Chinese people, we continue to establish good relations with them. And we certainly look forward to a better relations with China,” Lacierda said.

President Aquino is attending on Monday night the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc.’s commemoration of the Friendship Day, as well the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and the country’s 117th Independence Day.

Lacierda said the event is an apt reminder of “the friendship between the Filipino and Chinese” and “the long history of relations that we have with them.”

He added that as someone who has Chinese ancestry, Aquino can relate easily with Chinese-Filipinos.

“A number of our Filipinos here also have traced themselves to China and I could very well say that I am one of them. And, certainly, I would encourage this… to continue to enhance a warm relationship between China and the Philippines,” he said.

He added the country’s relations with China should not be viewed solely on the basis of the maritime row.

Lacierda cited the country’s “multi-level relationship with China” including people-to-people exchanges, trade and, culture.

06-15-2015, 01:34 PM
Philippines, US to set up South China Sea defense line


The Straits Times/Asia News Network

10:01 AM May 31st, 2015

The Philippines and the United States are putting up a defensive line meant to prevent China from punching through to the Pacific and threatening American military real estate in Guam, analysts say.

The US will be able to use at least eight military bases in the Philippines where it can rotate its troops, planes and ships, under a 10-year defense pact signed in April last year.

Two of these bases will give the US rapid access to the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, where China is digging in with a chain of island-fortresses.

The other bases are listening posts and staging areas for the US to monitor and limit China’s movements.

Plans are being drawn up in Washington to directly contest – with warships and aircraft – Beijing’s territorial claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, and deter China’s military from crossing to the Pacific, analysts say.

China has created over 800ha of land since last year on seven reefs in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia.

“The Americans know they are the ultimate goal here. Once the Chinese consolidate in the Spratlys and they punch through, then they’ll go to the second island chain: Guam,” Jose Custodio, a consultant of the Philippine military and a former adviser to a US defense company working for the US Pacific Command, told The Straits Times.

Guam is the home port of a US submarine squadron and a strategic base of the US Seventh Fleet operating in the Pacific.

A strategy paper released on Tuesday by China alludes to the US as its opponent, as it blasts “some external countries” that are “meddling in South China Sea affairs”.

The US used to have permanent bases in the Philippines.

One was in Subic Bay north of the capital Manila, the largest outside the US with an area of 678 sq km – about the size of Singapore.

In 1992, a nationalist Senate voted to evict these bases.

Subic has since been transformed into an economic zone, but American naval ships continue to make port calls there.

Another former US base, Clark, is now a civilian airport, but still serves as a staging area for US surveillance operations.

An American P8-A Poseidon plane – which the Chinese military recently warned off at least eight times as it swooped over a China-held reef in the Spratlys – reportedly took off from Clark.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said evicting the US bases had been a mistake. “If the Americans had not left, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” he said China would never have been able to go near Scarborough shoal off the coast of the Philippine province of Zambales had the Americans remained in Subic, he said.

The Americans were using Scarborough as an “impact range” at the time, he pointed out.

Since 2012, after a tense naval standoff with the Philippines, China has set up a blockade around Scarborough, keeping away Filipino fishermen who depended on the shoal’s lagoon for a living.

Custodio said once the Chinese islands in the Spratlys are operational and as the US settles in, something similar to the Bar Lev Line will emerge in the South China Sea.

Israel had built that chain of fortifications along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“It will be like a tripwire: Once one side crosses, all hell will break loose,” said Custodio.

01-13-2016, 09:39 AM
Philippines welcomes more US forces to counter China


Agence France-Presse

08:33 AM January 13th, 2016

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a security accord with the United States was legal, allowing more US forces into the former American colony as it seeks to counter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

The 10-year agreement, signed in 2014 but not implemented due to legal challenges, will see more US troops and warships rotate through the Philippines, and the hosts will receive help in building military facilities.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the accord was upheld with a 10-4 vote, ruling that President Benigno Aquino’s government had the authority to sign the pact and did not need congressional approval.

The pact “is a mere implementation of existing laws and treaties”, Te said.

Aquino negotiated the accord to help the Philippines improve its military capabilities and draw the United States closer, partly to counter a fast-expanding Chinese presence in disputed parts of the South China Sea.

US President Barack Obama also pushed hard for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as part of his so-called strategic “pivot” to Asia that has involved strengthening the American military presence in the region.

However it faced immediate legal challenges from groups opposed to US military involvement in the Philippines, a US colony from 1898 to 1946.

The Philippines hosted two of the largest overseas US military bases until 1992, the year after the Philippine Senate voted to end the leases in the face of strong anti-US sentiment.

Philippine military chief General Hernando Iriberri immediately welcomed Tuesday’s ruling, saying the accord would help the country address short-term “capability gaps” and modernize its armed forces.

Iriberri also emphasized the pact would help the Philippines “maintain maritime security”, a term commonly used when referring to efforts to contain China’s expansion in the sea.

As the court in Manila voted to approve the agreement, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met their counterparts Albert del Rosario and Voltaire Gazmin at the State Department.

“Our strategic relationship begins with a very firm pledge that the United States has an ironclad commitment to the security of the Philippines,” Kerry said, welcoming the decision.

“We will continue to consult and cooperate on all issues affecting regional security, such as territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea,” he added.

Anti-US anger

However opponents quickly voiced their concern.

“The government may have wantonly surrendered our national sovereignty to the US but the Filipino people will continue to fight for it,” said League of Filipino Students chairperson Charisse Banez.

“We will not allow the return of US bases in the country and its reoccupation of the Philippines.”

Filipino and US embassy officials declined to give details on Tuesday as to how quickly the pact would be implemented, or specifics such as which bases would be used by the Americans.

But Filipino officials previously said the United States would be offered access to key bases, including those facing the South China Sea that would allow rapid deployment into the waters.

And officials said in Washington that the United States would not reopen its former bases.

The Philippines and the United States are already bound by a mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 and a visiting forces agreement signed in 1998.

The Philippines, which has one of Asia’s weakest armed forces, has for decades heavily relied on US military aid for weapons and training.

And thousands of American troops pass through the country for regular war games that are authorized under the 1998 agreement. US navy ships also often make port calls.

But in recent years the tensions with China have seen Aquino’s government seek even greater US military and diplomatic support.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, despite conflicting claims from the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

In April 2012, after a tense stand-off with Philippine ships, Chinese vessels took control of a shoal just 220 kilometers (135 miles) off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

The Philippines has since become the most vocal critic of China’s efforts to claim the waters, including its strategy of turning islets into artificial islands that can host military facilities.

With its own armed forces unable to counter China, the Philippines had no choice but to draw in the United States and its allies such as Japan, according to security analyst Rodolfo Mendoza.

“Our only option is partnership with the US and other allies,” Mendoza told AFP.

03-29-2017, 07:58 AM
China assures PH of bilateral mechanism in South China Sea

By: Leila B. Salaverria - Reporter / @LeilasINQ

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:03 AM March 29, 2017

China on Monday assured President Duterte of its commitment to a "bilateral mechanism" and a code of conduct that would prevent territorial disputes in the South China Sea from erupting into conflict.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua told Mr. Duterte during a meeting in Davao City that China was looking forward to the convening in May of the first meeting of the bilateral mechanism set up to handle the South China Sea disputes, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Avoiding misunderstandings

"Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided," Abella said.

Zhao also said China would cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) toward the conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, as this year?s Asean chair, is pushing for the completion of the framework for the proposed code of conduct.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, but the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have competing claims in the strategic waterway through which $5 trillion in global trade passes every year.

The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled last year in a case brought by the Philippines, invalidating China?s claim and declaring that Beijing had violated Manila?s rights to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country?s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

But Mr. Duterte, after winning presidential election last year, upended Philippine foreign policy by deferring assertion of the tribunal?s ruling, steering the country away from the United States, and making overtures to China and Russia.

03-30-2017, 07:59 AM
Duterte confronts envoy on US inaction

By: Leila B. Salaverria - Reporter / @LeilasINQ

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:00 AM March 30, 2017

SOCORRO, Oriental Mindoro ? President Rodrigo Duterte confronted US Ambassador Sung Kim about the United States' supposed inaction on China's massive island-building in the South China Sea.

Mr. Duterte himself disclosed the confrontation in a speech to local officials and residents here on Wednesday.

But Kim apparently dodged the issue, telling Mr. Duterte that the matter was not his responsibility at the time.

Kim met with Mr. Duterte on Monday, the eve of the President's 72nd birthday.

Mr. Duterte recalled telling the US ambassador that he was surprised that the United States, which wanted to avoid trouble in the South China Sea, did not take immediate action when it spotted China's construction of structures on artificial islands it had built in the disputed waters.

"Why did you not send the armada of the 7th Fleet stationed in the Pacific to make a U-turn, go there, and tell them right to their face, 'Stop it,'" he said he told Kim.

He said he told Kim that international law prohibits building structures on the high seas.

In response, he said, Kim told him: "That was not my assignment then."

Kim said he was in charge of North Korean affairs at the time.

Kim served then as US special representative for North Korea policy.

Earlier, Mr. Duterte blamed the United States for not taking action to stop China?s aggressive construction activities in the South China Sea, which have raised fears that Beijing is militarizing the strategic waterway believed to be rich in resources.

04-07-2017, 08:26 AM
Duterte: Occupy PH islands in South China Sea

By: Redempto D. Anda - Correspondent / @demptoanda

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:17 AM April 07, 2017

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY?President Duterte on Thursday said he had ordered troops to deploy to and fortify unoccupied South China Sea islands and reefs claimed by the Philippines, a move that could provoke rival claimants, including China.

Mr. Duterte also announced that he may visit Pagasa Island, internationally known as Thitu Island, and raise the Philippine flag there on Independence Day, June 12.

The Philippines marks its 119th year of independence from more than three centuries of Spanish rule on June 12.

Taking what is ours

"It looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we better live on those that are still vacant," Mr. Duterte told reporters during a visit to the headquarters of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan province, near the disputed Spratly archipelago.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea despite rival claims from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

Mr. Duterte has previously sought to improve the Philippines' relations with China by adopting a nonconfrontational approach to their competing claims.

He has deferred assertion of an international tribunal's ruling in favor of the Philippines in a challenge to China's expansive claims in the South China Sea and made overtures to Beijing that have led to improvement in relations between the two countries.

But he appeared to alter his tone with his announcement on Thursday, saying it was time to "erect structures there and raise the Philippine flag."

He made clear, however, that he was not diverting from his administration's stance of making "friends with everybody," including China.

He said the Philippines only sought to make sure it had a strong presence on the islands it occupied.

"We try to be friends with everybody, but we have to maintain our jurisdiction, at least the areas that we control," Mr. Duterte said.

"I have ordered the armed forces to occupy all these islands and put up the Philippine flag [there]," he said.

"This coming Independence Day, I may go to Pagasa to raise the flag. We want to make a strong point that that is ours," he said.

Kalayaan Islands

Pagasa Island is the second-largest island in the Kalayaan group in the Spratlys occupied by the Philippines. It is located 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City and is part of the municipality of Kalayaan.

Occupied by the Philippines since 1970, Pagasa is tightly protected by the military and the population is composed of soldiers and their families.

The island has a 1,300-meter airstrip and structures, including a municipal hall and an elementary school.

The military has requested funds to upgrade the runway on Pagasa and the living quarters of troops stationed there, but work on the improvements has been deferred in keeping with an agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to maintain the status quo in the disputed South China Sea.

The agreement, however, did not stop China from building artificial islands on seven reefs in the Spratlys, including some claimed by the Philippines.

Philippine claims

Besides Pagasa Island, Philippines occupies Likas Island (West York Island), Parola Island (Northeast Cay), Lawak Island (Nanshan), Kota (Loaita Island), Panata Island (Lankiam Cay), Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef), Balagtas Reef (Irving Reef) and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).

In addition, the Philippines claims Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), Zamora Reef (Subi Reef), Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef), Burgos Reef (Gaven Reef), Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) and McKennan Reef (Hughes Reef), all of which are also claimed by China and Vietnam.

China has transformed Kagitingan, Calderon, Burgos, Mabini, Panganiban, Zamora and McKennan into artificial islands, and built facilities on some that could be used for military purposes, including runways, aircraft hangars and radar shelters.

Last month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military would strengthen its facilities in the Spratlys, building a new port, paving the airstrip on Pagasa and repairing other structures.

Mr. Duterte spoke about building fortifications on Ayungin Shoal, where the government grounded an old naval hospital ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratlys.

A garrison of Marines holds the rusting ship, which Mr. Duterte indicated he wanted to transform into a battle-capable outpost.

"That?s ours. I must build bunkers there," he said.

Philippine Ridge

Mr. Duterte said the development plan for the West Philippine Sea would include funding for securing the Philippines' ownership of Benham Rise, a resource-rich undersea landmass off the eastern coast of Luzon.

"I will spend for the fortification, including Benham Rise, which I will rename Philippine Ridge, because it is part of our continental shelf," he said. - [I]WITH REPORTS FROM THE WIRES

10-15-2019, 07:02 AM
Philippines, US defense treaty should address China's 'gray zone' tactics — analysts

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 4, 2019 - 4:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States should revise its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to counter China's actions in the disputed South China Sea, analysts said.

Adrien Chorn and Monica Michiko Sato of the CSIS Southeast Asia Program noted that the existing treaty between the two countries is not clear on gray zone threats.

Chorn and Sato noted that gray zone threats can include a mix of conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods.

"The United States and the Philippines should issue a joint statement on an elucidative and effective MDT that addresses gray zone threats and upholds the tribunal decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration," the analysts said in an article published on the CSIS website.

According to the analysts, a revised MDT should be multi-level and similar to the defense readiness condition levels of the US.

The revised treaty should also include well-defined rules of engagement, rationale for escalation of force and appropriate consequences of Chinese actions.

"In doing so, the MDT would be revised to address China’s various actions in the South China Sea and to limit the range of Chinese activities that may be considered permissible," the analysts said.

Doing so would improve Philippines-US relations and would also counter Chinese belligerence in the region, they said.

One of China's "gray zone" tactics is deploying hundreds of paramilitary vessels in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island, where the Philippine government is upgrading its facilities.

Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratlys, have also been intimidating Filipino fishermen.

The Department of National Defense also reported that China's Coast Guard vessels blocked Filipino civilian vessels conducting a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, where the navy's BRP Sierra Madre is grounded.

Chorn and Sato also mentioned other dimensions of China's tactics, such as cyberwarfare, disinformation campaigns and "debt traps" from "opaque" infrastructural investments.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has long been calling for a review on the decades-old MDT following Beijing's aggressive actions in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Manila in March, he assured the Philippines that any armed attack on Filipino forces in the South China Sea would trigger the agreement.

In response to this, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there was no need to review the agreement between Manila and Washington.

"In vagueness lies uncertainty — a deterrent. Specificity invites evasion and actions outside the MDT framework," Locsin said in March.

Lorenzana, on the other hand, contradicted Locsin's "old theory of deterrence," pointing out that the security environment in the Philippines has changed since the MDT was signed in 1951.

"I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis," Lorenzana said.

10-23-2019, 07:58 AM
Russia seeks to put up joint weapons production hub in PH

By: Frances Mangosing - Reporter / @FMangosingINQ

INQUIRER.net / 01:32 AM October 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Russia is proposing to set up a weapons manufacturing company in the Philippines, Moscow’s Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

“We have a very good proposal for you Filipinos. We are ready to optimize a joint production of Russian sophisticated light arms in the Philippines,” he told reporters in his residence in Makati City.

“They will be Filipino products based on Russian technologies… The Philippines will be the exporter of advanced small firearms and weapons,” he said.

The Russian envoy said both sides were committed to exploring new areas in defense cooperation.

The Philippines, which is actively modernizing its armed forces, has been diversifying its supply of defense equipment from different countries.

According to Khovaev, Russia is ready to supply weapons to the Philippines and help strengthen its military capability without “political conditionality.”

These stepped-up engagements with Russia are a result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed independent foreign policy, where he steered the country closer toward Moscow and Beijing while alienating the United States, the country’s traditional ally.

11-08-2019, 10:12 AM
‘It’s not our concern’

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:35 AM November 08, 2019

In yet another illustration of the kick-me stance to which its own officials have reduced the Philippines, it is grievously silent on China’s actions toward the Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker Green Aura in the West Philippine Sea last Sept. 30.

The vessel crewed by 21 Filipinos led by Capt. Manolo Ebora was heading from Thailand to Longkou, China, when a Chinese vessel identifying itself as a naval warship demanded that it change its course in order to veer away from Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines claims as its territory and which it calls Panatag Shoal or, its ancient name, Bajo de Masinloc.

In his narration of the events, Ebora told Rappler that his insistence on the right of innocent passage fell on deaf ears in the course of his radio exchange with those on board any of about five Chinese vessels (one unidentified) clustered in the area. His refusal to heed the order that he “aim [his] course to 0-8-0 degrees” as well as his repeated question “Is this a Chinese territory?” eventually resulted in China Coast Guard 3302 moving in the direction of the Green Aura with the apparent intent of cutting it in its course and subsequently tailing it. In the end, a stern voice announced: “This is the China Coast Guard. This area is under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government. You should keep away from this area.”

Not surprisingly, in the same manner that it wore down the narrative of the captain and crew of the fishing boat Gem Ver 1 that a Chinese vessel had rammed and caused to sink in a hit-and-run incident, the government shredded what was left of its self-respect and in effect said the Green Aura’s experience was no big deal.

The imperious display of might in the Philippines’ very waters elicited a veritable hum of harmony from the well-trained ranks of President Duterte’s lieutenants. Having apparently grown accustomed to brutish treatment from the Philippines’ giant neighbor, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, onetime holder of the foreign affairs portfolio, pronounced that it was nothing new. Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it was “not our concern, because it’s not a Philippine vessel.”

Toying with the complexities of foreign policy, Heckle and Jeckle trotted out the old think-of-the-jobs-that-will-be-lost bogey: Invoking Philippine sovereignty to protest the incident will endanger the employment of more than 400,000 Filipino mariners, intoned Panelo; “Want the employment of 400,000 Filipino mariners to hang in the balance of the games an idiot native media likes to play?” huffed Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Panelo went further into paroxysms of diplomacy, so-called: “We cannot deprive the country being represented by the oil tanker of its right and duty to protect its own ship. To do otherwise will be effectively divesting such country of its right and competence to take [up] the cudgels for its ship. Such a demeanor will be a disrespect to it and even insulting to the capability of that country to assert its right.”

It fell to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to state for the record that it was incumbent on the Chinese government to “respect international maritime laws if it wants to earn the respect of the international community,” and to remind everyone that “Bajo de Masinloc is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and the 2016 arbitral ruling declared that it is a common fishing area.” From his vantage point of bending over backward, Locsin has yet to screech that Filipino mariners’ jobs are now at high risk because of this reminder.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal correctly framed the government’s silence on the matter as “a sign of acquiescence” to China’s assertion of jurisdiction over the Green Aura. “This is like saying that the Philippines is not concerned that China exercises jurisdiction over Scarborough against any other state. It’s like a person not caring that his house is being managed by someone else who claims to be the owner, and makes other people recognize he is the real owner,” Batongbacal said.

And still China continues to engage in provocative behavior in the West Philippine Sea. According to the military’s report on the situation in the area in the first semester, warning flares were fired from Chinese outposts six times in February at Philippine military planes on maritime patrol near the artificial islands built by China. The flares, per Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao, deputy chief of staff for military intelligence, were intended as a warning to Filipino pilots to stay away.

Basiao added that the military had also monitored 17 Chinese research vessels in the eastern portion of Philippine waters during the period January-June. Nothing new?