Posts Tagged ‘Bajo de Masinloc’

South China Sea: Defense Secretary’s visit in islands “just routine” for the Philippines — But China was “gravely concerned about and dissatisfied” with the trip

April 23, 2017
Pag-asa Island, part of Palawan province, in the disputed West Philippine Sea is controlled by the Philippines despite Chinese claims of sovereignty over it. STAR/File photo
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MANILA, Philippines — The visit of security officials to Pag-asa Island was routine and was in line with international law, Malacañang said Sunday after China expressed alarm over their trip to the island in the disputed Spratly chain.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top military officials visited Pag-asa Island in Palawan province on Friday to inspect the facilities in the area, which is inhabited by about 200 people.
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The visit was meant to enable officials to assess what improvements can be done in the island, the second largest in the Spratlys.
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The government has earmarked around P1.6 billion to develop Pag-asa and is planning to build a beaching ramp, fish port, radio station, ice plant, water desalination facility, sewage facility and houses for soldiers.
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The visit did not sit well with China, which claims historical rights over almost 90 percent of areas in the South China Sea, including Pag-asa.
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Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said China was “gravely concerned about and dissatisfied” with the trip, which he claimed went against the consensus reached by Manila and Beijing “to properly deal with the South China Sea issue.”
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Lu Kang — File Photo
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Lu also urged the Philippines to “faithfully follow the consensus” between the two countries, “maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea” and “promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations.”
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Routine patrol

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Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Lorenzana’s visit to Pag-asa was just part of a “routine” patrol in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
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“The Philippines has long been undertaking customary and routine maritime patrol and overflight in the West Philippine Sea which are lawful activities under international law. Such flights will likewise enable us to reach our municipality,” Abella said in a statement.
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Abella said the visit was also in line with the government’s aim to improve the quality of life of Filipinos in the island.
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“The visit of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Pag-asa Island is part of the efforts to improve the safety, welfare, livelihood of Filipinos residing and living in the municipality of Kalayaan which is part of the province of Palawan,” the presidential spokesman said.
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China has used a similar argument to justify reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
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China challenges PAF planes

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While on its way to Pag-asa, the military plane carrying Lorenzana and military officials were warned by Chinese forces to leave the area but the pilot insisted that they were in Philippine airspace.
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Lorenzana has downplayed the incident, saying Philippine air assets conducting resupply operations usually receive warnings from Chinese forces.
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During President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China last October, Manila and Beijing agreed to hold dialogues on the South China Sea dispute, a move that Chinese officials claimed signaled the “full recovery” of the friendship between the two countries.
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The Duterte administration’s decision to hold dialogues with China on the dispute is a departure from the policy of former President Benigno Aquino III, who preferred that the issue be tackled through multilateral channels.
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In 2013, the Philippines challenged the legality of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea before an international arbitral tribunal in Hague.
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The court decided in favor of the Philippines last year, ruling that China’s maritime claim has no legal basis.
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China has refused to recognize the ruling, dismissing it as a “mere piece of paper” that would not affect its territorial rights.
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Duterte has said he is ready to set aside the arbitral ruling to enhance the Philippines’ ties with China. He stressed, though, that he would not bargain away the Philippines’ maritime claims and that there would be a time when he would bring up the arbitral ruling before the Chinese government.
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Related:
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 (The problem of Islamic rebels in the Philippines — Real or Not?)
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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Despite all this:

What is China so passionate about in the Philippine Seas?

April 23, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Philippine soldier stands guard over the South China Sea.

By: Artemio V. Panganiban – @inquirerdotnet — Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:20 AM April 23, 2017

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Why is China so passionate in owning Scarborough Shoal and several maritime features in the Spratlys in the South China Sea (SCS)? And yet, so easily conceded the Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise?

No controversy. The short answer is that Benham Rise is outside the so-called nine-dash line under which China claims historic title and sovereignty over almost the entire SCS.

But unlike the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal, Benham Rise is totally submerged in water ranging from 50 to 5,000 meters in depth. This submarine status makes the exploitation of its vast resources extremely expensive and difficult to undertake.

On the other hand, the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal are located in much shallower waters; in fact, China has enlarged some of the isles and rocks therein, not only to extract mineral resources but also, more visibly, to construct airports, seaports, buildings and other structures.

Mendoza’s primer. Superlawyer Estelito P. Mendoza recently wrote a primer on this subject, published by the UP Law Center. As one of the two vice chairs of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which convened during martial law in December 1973, he had an insider view of the negotiations.

(The other vice chair was then Foreign Undersecretary Jose Ingles. Alternating as chairs were then Sen. Arturo Tolentino and then Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos. All are now deceased.)

In 1982, the UN finally adopted the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) that came into force in 1994. Mendoza related that our delegation was able to include the “archipelagic principles” in the Unclos, and eventually the “ultimate compromise … to have a 12-mile territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles…”

On March 10, 2009, Republic Act No. 9522 was approved. It defined the baselines from which to measure our 1) 12-nautical-mile (NM) territorial sea, 2) 24-NM contiguous zone, 3) 200-NM exclusive economic zone, and 4) 350-NM continental shelf. (See my column on 4/2/17 for details.)

Thereafter, the Philippines notified the UN Secretary General (UNSG) of the baselines defined under RA 9522. It claimed the status of an “archipelagic state,” composed of the “Philippine archipelago” (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) plus two “regimes of islands,” the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal (or Bajo de Masinloc).

Soon after, China submitted to the UNSG a “Note” dated April 13, 2009, alleging that RA 9522 “illegally claims Huangyan Island (referred to as ‘Bajo de Masinloc’ in the Act) and some islands and reefs of Nansha Islands (referred to as ‘The Kalayaan Island Group’ in the Act) of China… The Chinese Government hereby reiterates that Huangyan Island and Nansha Islands have been part of the territory of China since ancient time.”

Notably, it did not contest our rights over the “Philippine archipelago” and implicitly its corresponding territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf including Benham Rise.

No ruling on land. Mendoza opined, “Considering that … China had taken possession and occupied several of the islands (or features) within the Kalayaan Group of Islands and over Bajo de Masinloc,” the Philippines should have initiated a proceeding “in regard to these matters.”

As it is, however, our arbitral claim and the arbitral award itself did not settle the issue of Chinese occupation and sovereignty over these islands or features. In fact, the arbitral tribunal had no jurisdiction to award title or sovereignty over land territory. Consequently, China cannot be expected to surrender its occupation or sovereignty over them.

Mendoza recalled that in a conversation with then President Ferdinand Marcos, then Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, during a state visit here in June 1975, advised that negotiation is the only solution. And if no agreement is reached, how should the matter be resolved? His answer was simply “to talk some more, and more until agreement is reached.”

Consistent with this “talk, talk, talk” approach is the Duterte administration’s pursuit of the proposed Code of Conduct between Asean and China, spoken about by Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo in a recent Inquirer Forum. Is this a better strategy to resolve the impasse in the SCS? (To be continued.)

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/103399/scarborough-spratlys-benham#ixzz4f4JlFpes
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 (The problem of Islamic rebels in the Philippines — Real or Not?)
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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Despite all this:

South China Sea: Philippines has lost traditional fishing ground as Vietnamese move in with Chinese, Philippines envoy to China says — Everyone shares the common fishing ground — But fewer fish each year

April 4, 2017
South China Sea: Philippines has lost traditional fishing ground as Vietnamese move in with Chinese, Philippines envoy to China says — Everyone shares the common fishing ground — But fewer fish each year

Scarborough Shoal, Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, is a traditional common fishing ground located 120 nautical miles from Zambales. Google Maps

MANILA, Philippines — The reported presence of Vietnamese fishing vessels at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is actually good news, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said Tuesday.

The United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague had ruled that the shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

RELATED: How the Hague court ruled on the Philippines’s 15 arguments

In an interview with ANC’s Hot Copy on Headstart, Sta. Romana said that Vietnamese presence in the region brings back the essence of Panatag Shoal as a common fishing ground.

“Had we known this verdict back it 2012 that it’s a historical common fishing ground perhaps we should not have arrested the Chinese fishermen. It should have been a common fishing ground,” Sta. Romana said.

READ: Seen fishing on Panatag, Vietnam gains from Philippines’ arbitral win

In 2012, the Philippines was involved in a tense standoff with China over the shoal located 120 nautical miles from Zambales.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

The standoff began when a Philippine Navy surveillance plane sighted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Panatag.

The Philippine Navy then deployed warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar to inspect the Chinese vessels, wherein they discovered large amounts of illegally collected coral, giant clams and live sharks.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, boat, outdoor and water

A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

Sta. Romana, however, said that the 2012 Panatag Shoal standoff led to the country’s loss of the traditional fishing ground.

“That is what led to our loss. We tried to enforce and say that it is ours… It is true that what is ours is ours if it’s accepted by the world but in that case, the Chinese also say the same thing,” the diplomat said.

There have been reports that China is building an environmental monitoring station on Panatag Shoal.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied the report, saying that such facility on Panatag Shoal had been checked and was found to be false.

“That does not exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “South China Sea is indisputable Chinese territory.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/04/1687605/vietnamese-presence-panatag-good-news-says-philippines-envoy-china

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 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Duterte, China and the South China Sea — Bald-faced sellout of our country

April 3, 2017
OPINION / LATEST OPINION
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Impeachable
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Philippine Inquirer
01:02 AM April 03, 2017
Maritime hotspots in Asia, among which is the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, off Zambales. AMTI/CSIS, file

Although I am not entirely sure of what exactly the orders of President Duterte are in regard to Panatag Shoal, his remark that he could not stop China from building infrastructure on that Philippine territory sounds like he was not going to exert any effort to stop China at all. This is quite alarming. It is like a security guard hired to protect your property but who refuses to do his/her job when a criminal tries stealing some stuff from your garage or erect a structure on the property; or like the police who refuse to do anything to stop a crime in progress. In the case of the President, it is an impeachable offense, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Protecting our territories is one of the duties the President swore to uphold. The problem is we have opted to subject President Duterte to a very low leadership bar and allow his alarming remarks to go under the radar. But we must dig deeper into the reason the President seems not to care and why he so readily gives up our sovereign rights to China.

Is it connected to the billions of dollars of Chinese pledges reportedly to come from the primarily China-bankrolled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  Shall we be surprised that those billions of dollars reportedly will be poured into the Philippines’ public private partnership program, which public officials use to fill their pockets, leaving the nation holding an empty bag?

It’s as plain as the nose on our face—yes, the blatant disregard of our territorial integrity by China and President Duterte, together with his cross-eyed attraction to those pledges.

If that’s not a bald-faced sellout of our country, I don’t know what is.

JOSE SANTAMARIA, j_e_santamaria@hotmail.com

Image may contain: ocean, outdoor, water and nature

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/102928/impeachable#ixzz4dBP8SYUb
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 (Contains links to several previous articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

South China Sea: Vietnam Fishing Far Closer to Scarborough Shoal, The Philippines — Testing Ownership and Resolve of China and/or The Philippines?

April 3, 2017
Maritime hotspots in Asia, among which is the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, off Zambales. AMTI/CSIS, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:06 p.m.) — Vietnamese fishing vessels have reportedly been seen moored at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, inserting Hanoi into the post-ruling narrative of the South China Sea dispute.

On July 12, 2016, the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague issued its ruling on the Philippines’ complaint against China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. In its ruling, the tribunal recognized the Scarborough Shoal as a traditional fishing ground of neighbors the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

The Duterte administration, however, has decided to set aside the ruling and sought to rebuild its relationship with Beijing.

In a Twitter post, Ryan Martinson, assistant professor at China Maritime Studies Institute, noted that a number of Vietnamese fishing and law enforcement vessels were present near the Panatag Shoal.

 

Leaning on Hague ruling

Euan Graham, Director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, said that Vietnam serves to keep the Hague award alive by internationalizing the issue.

“Manila recently announced a bilateral coordination mechanism on the South China Sea, with Beijing, due to commence in May. This may have raised Vietnam’s diplomatic concerns,” Graham said in his article title “What is Vietnam’s fishing flotilla doing at Scarborough Shoal?”

Vietnam, having one of the region’s biggest fleets, might be putting fishing rights deliberately to the test at the shoal for other reasons.

Image result for vietnamese fishing boats

Vietnamese fishing boats

“Vietnam stands to gain considerably from the Philippines’ arbitration verdict, especially its consummate rejection of China’s nine dashed-line claims, which intrude far into Vietnam’s EEZ,” Graham said.

The arbitral tribunal’s recognition of multi-nation fishing rights at Panatag Shoal gives Vietnam an “in” to help implement the ruling, the analyst said.

Implications for Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has reasons not to welcome Hanoi’s intervention as it would broaden the dispute between Manila and Beijing when the former’s priority is rapprochement.

The presence of Vietnamese Coast Guard vessels in the area could be interpreted as reviving a latent claim to the shoal’s sovereignty.

Image result for vietnamese fishing boats

Graham, however, noted that Vietnam likely consulted with the Philippines in advance.

“Duterte reaffirmed the strategic partnership on his visit to Hanoi last September, including a strongly worded joint statement upholding ‘freedom of navigation and overflight as well as unimpeded commerce in the region, particularly in the South China Sea,'” Graham said.

The supposed coordination between the Philippines and Vietnam speaks to a growing security bilateralism among certain members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

According to Graham, it would make no sense for Vietnam to alienate the Philippines, its fellow frontline claimant in the South China Sea, as Manila sits in the ASEAN chair and leads the Code of Conduct negotiations with Beijing.

“The appearance of a Vietnamese fishing flotilla near one of the South China Sea’s most remote flashpoints is not just about catching fish. Hanoi’s legal and diplomatic motivations run deeper. It will be interesting to see if China reacts,” Graham said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/03/1687281/seen-fishing-panatag-vietnam-gains-philippines-arbitral-win

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Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. Philstar.com/File photo
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MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
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Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
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The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
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In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
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“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
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China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
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An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
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In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
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“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
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Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
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Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
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“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
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He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
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 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Philippines Defense Minister: China likely to build more islands

February 7, 2017
/ 04:50 PM February 07, 2017

Satellite image of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which located 124 nautical miles west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

Satellite image of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which located 124 nautical miles west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

Manila expects China to try to build on a reef off the Philippines’ coast, the country’s defense secretary said Tuesday, a move he said would be “unacceptable” in the flashpoint waterway.

In an interview with AFP, Delfin Lorenzana said he believed China would eventually reclaim the Scarborough Shoal, which sits just 230 kilometers from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Beijing has already built up a number of islets and reefs in the South China Sea, installing military facilities on several of them.

Analysts say that similar installations on Scarborough Shoal could give China effective military control over the disputed waterway — something the US has said it is not prepared to accept.

“They encroached,” Lorenzana said of a 2012 confrontation that saw Philippine vessels displaced. “They occupied three islands there plus they are trying to get Scarborough. So to us that is unacceptable”.

“If we allow them, they will build. That’s very, very disturbing. Very much (more) disturbing than Fiery Cross because this is so close to us,” Lorenzana added, referring to one of the Philippine-claimed reefs China has built on.

Because of its position, another military outpost at Scarborough Shoal is seen as the last major physical step required to secure control of the sea.

An outpost at the shoal would also put Chinese fighter jets and missiles within easy striking distance of US forces stationed in the Philippines.

The shoal also commands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chinese military outpost there could stop other countries’ navies from using the vital stretch of waters.

A UN-backed tribunal — in a case brought by Manila under then-president Benigno Aquino — ruled last year that the so-called “nine-dash-line” which underpins Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis.

But his successor, Rodrigo Duterte, has courted Beijing and backed away from his country’s close relationship with the United States.

Lorenzana said Chinese island-reclamation efforts were meant to control the South China Sea.

“That could be their strategy to counter any superpower that would encroach on South China Sea because they believe South China Sea is — that’s like their lake to them — theirs,” he added.

The administration of new US President Donald Trump has indicated it will push back against any Chinese attempt to solidify control of the sea.

During confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would block Chinese access to the islands, although analysts have pointed out that this would require a military blockade — an act of war

Read more: https://globalnation.inquirer.net/152424/china-likely-build-islands-lorenzana#ixzz4Y0tMxmgt
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of the “nine dash line” as depted on this Chinese government chart. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid
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South China Sea and China’s questionable claims — Chart by THE ECONOMIST

South China Sea: Still No Word From China on Philippines President Duterte and His Scarborough Marine Park

November 23, 2016
In this Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing. AP/Ng Han Guan, Pool, File

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing refused to comment on the recent proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal into a marine sanctuary.

This is contrary to the recent statement of Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar that Chinese President Xi Jinping was receptive to Duterte’s idea.

READ: Xi open to Duterte’s plan to turn Panatag into sanctuary | Duterte to issue EO declaring Panatag a sanctuary

When asked about China’s response to the president’s plan to declare the disputed shoal a lagoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang insisted that Beijing’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over the shoal will not change.

“China and the Philippines have reached an agreement on coming back to the track of dialogue and consultation for the settlement of the South China Sea issue,” Geng said in a press briefing Tuesday.

Declaring the disputed Panatag Shoal in the South China Sea a maritime sanctuary would make it off-limits to all fishermen.

All fishing activities inside the area will be banned but not around it.

“The Chinese side has also made proper arrangements for fishing activities by the Philippine fishermen in waters near Huangyan Dao in the interests of bilateral friendship,” Geng said.

A statement earlier released by the PCO said that Xi vowed that Filipino fishermen will continue to have free access to the disputed shoal, which is their traditional fishing grounds.

China hopes that the two countries will enhance cooperation to turn the South China Sea dispute into a “positive factor for friendship and cooperation.”

Both the Philippines and China have been claiming Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales..

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/11/23/1646667/china-mum-dutertes-proposal-declare-panatag-sanctuary

RELATED: Commentary: How a marine-protected area in the South China Sea is crucial for peace

Related:

 

South China Sea: Scarborough Shoal to be declared a marine sanctuary — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to sign an Executive Order

November 21, 2016

Leaders of China, the Philippines Talk About a South China Sea Marine Preserve — Made a Deal?

November 21, 2016
 
China’s President Xi Jinping, center, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, wait for the group photo to be taken at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, summit in Lima, Peru, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. AP/Martin Mejia
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MANILA, Philippines — Chinese President Xi Jinping responded well to the proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal into a marine sanctuary, a Palace official said.

Duterte suggested turning the shoal into a sanctuary to Xi when they met during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru.

At a news conference on Monday upon Duterte’s return to the Philippines, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Xi was receptive to Duterte’s idea.

“Sabi niya (Xi), ‘We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment,'” Andanar said.

Turning the shoal into a sanctuary would ban all fishing activities inside the area but not around it.

Both the Philippines and China have been claiming Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

RELATED: 2 Coast Guard ships arrive at Panatag

The Chinese president has also promised that Filipino fishermen will continue to have access to the disputed shoal in the South China Sea, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.

Xi called on the two countries to explore maritime cooperation as the contested sea would be turned into a “symbol of cooperation.”

RELATED: Duterte to align foreign policy toward China-led Asian economic development

Implementing a marine park in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea could be done bilaterally by the Philippines with any number of claimant states.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines marine protected areas as bodies of water that are protected for conservation purposes.

The main objective of establishing a marine protected area is to protect the existing biodiversity and the integrity of the marine ecosystem in the area. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

RELATED: Commentary: How a marine-protected area in the South China Sea is crucial for peace

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/11/21/1645961/xi-open-dutertes-plan-turn-panatag-sanctuary

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