Posts Tagged ‘Carpio’

China exploits the Philippines’ soft-pedalling in South China Sea

August 30, 2017

By Richard Heydarian

Duterte’s conciliatory stance on Beijing’s territorial claims is backfiring

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea. © Reuters

Just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ended a series of ministerial meetings in Manila in early August the Philippines faced a fresh and daunting challenge in the South China Sea.

In what one prominent Filipino official described as an “invasion,” a flotilla of Chinese civilian and military vessels gathered within a few nautical miles of the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, a prized land feature in the area. There are growing concerns that China will gobble up other contested land features in the Spratly chain of islands and tighten the noose around other claimant states as a prelude to full domination of the South China Sea.

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The “invasion” was a shocking development for Manila, which has used its one-year term as the rotating chair of ASEAN to shield Beijing against criticism of its maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea. The Philippines has also recently proposed resource-sharing agreements in contested areas to break the impasse among claimant states.

In exchange, Manila was hoping to reach a mutually acceptable modus vivendi with Beijing, leading to expanded trade and investment ties. China’s latest action, however, has exposed Beijing’s naked opportunism as it exploits the strategic acquiescence of some other ASEAN countries and waning U.S. influence in the region.

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Beijing’s assertiveness also casts doubt on the conciliatory policy pursued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte toward China, and boosts hawks who are urging a tougher stance. Duterte and his Foreign Secretary (and former vice-presidential running mate) Alan Cayetano have sought to play down the issue, but the Philippine defense establishment and media are outraged.

At the recent ASEAN meetings, Philippine officials exercised the country’s prerogative as the group’s chair to tone down any criticism of China’s massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano claimed that Beijing had not engaged in any reclamation activities in recent months, while indirectly criticizing other claimant states such as Vietnam for engaging in similar activities. But satellite imagery released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a monitoring program set up by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, has revealed China’s relentless expansion and upgrading of disputed land features such as the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea.

The Philippine foreign secretary admitted that he wanted to avoid issues that China consider sensitive in ASEAN’s post-summit joint statement, so as to facilitate dialogue. He also expressed skepticism over the wisdom of pursuing a “legally-binding” Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a key demand of rival ASEAN claimant states such as Vietnam, suggesting that a more symbolic document would be sufficient.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department is grappling with policy paralysis under President Donald Trump and a series of naval collisions that have diminished the aura of U.S. invincibility and forced the resignation of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, head of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the U.S. Navy’s largest overseas force.

To China’s delight, the Duterte administration has also dangled the option of resource-sharing with China in contested waters, particularly the energy-rich Reed Bank. This way, Manila hopes to avoid conflict and develop new energy resources to feed its booming economy. In effect, the Philippines is legitimizing China’s excessive claims, which extend well into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

But Beijing’s blatant display of force risks undermining its newfound rapprochement with the Philippines, where the defense establishment and public are already highly critical of China.

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China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines. File photo from Xinhua

Suspicious movements

Intelligence reports on suspicious movements of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island were leaked by Philippine defense officials to Gary Alejano, a prominent opposition lawmaker. The information was corroborated by satellite imagery released by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Alejano, a decorated former soldier with strong ties to the military, reported that Chinese frigates and coast guard vessels sailed close to Thitu Island from Aug. 11 to 15. He also suggested that China is intent on occupying Sandy Cay, a low-tide elevation within Thitu’s territorial waters.

Rocky Thitu Island, which is the second largest naturally-formed feature in the area, has been under effective Philippine occupation for more than 40 years. It has a mayor, a civilian community, an airstrip that dates to the 1970s and a regular contingent of Philippine marines and other military personnel.

In April, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief of staff Eduardo Ano made a high-profile visit to Thitu to demonstrate Manila’s resolve to protect its territory. They promised to upgrade local facilities, including the airstrip, and improve basic services and accommodation for civilians living on the island. These plans are now in jeopardy due to the growing presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

There are also growing fears of encirclement and additional reclamation activities by China in the Spratly Islands, which are contested by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing already occupies nearby Subi Reef, which it has transformed it into a fully-fledged island with a large airstrip and advanced military facilities. A Chinese flag was reportedly planted on a sandbar next to the Philippine-controlled Kota Island. Such actions suggest that Beijing is intent on encircling and squeezing out other claimant states from the area.

Alejano has cautioned the Duterte administration against “denial or silence and inaction” in response to Chinese actions. Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a prominent hawk on the South China Sea issue, described the episode as an “invasion of Philippine territory,” and has urged Duterte and Cayetano to stand up to China. He suggested invoking a mutual defense treaty with the U.S. in the event of clashes with Chinese vessels.

Both Duterte and his foreign secretary have sought to play down the Thitu issue by claiming that China was engaged in routine maritime activities in the area. In a dramatic break with protocol, however, the Philippine military has openly encouraged the government to take a tougher stance. the foreign ministry to raise the issue in the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, a negotiating forum established by the two countries, which met for the first time in May. It serves as the primary platform for dialogue on sensitive bilateral issues.

However, unless China significantly eases its assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Duterte administration is expected to come under growing domestic pressure to revise its policy toward Beijing. While Duterte is still popular, he cannot afford to continue to ignore public sentiment as well as the concerns of top military officers.

China’s aggressive actions underline the perils of Manila’s overly conciliatory policy, which is based on the naive notion that acquiescence will tame Beijing’s territorial appetite. The latest episode in the South China Sea highlights the necessity for ASEAN countries and the U.S. to actively resist Chinese maritime ambitions. Otherwise, Beijing will continue to push its luck at the expense of regional security and the interests of smaller claimant states.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic and columnist. He is the author of “Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for the Western Pacific,” and of the forthcoming” Rise of Duterte.”

https://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Richard-Heydarian/China-exploits-the-Philippines-soft-pedalling-in-South-China-Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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People in the Philippines Ask Nagging Questions on China

August 27, 2017

By  – @inquirerdotnet

 / 05:16 AM August 26, 2017

Question: What is the similarity between China and the Caloocan police?

Answer: China claimed that it had stopped reclamation work on the disputed islands in the South China Sea since 2015 (Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano supported the claim); the Caloocan police claimed that Kian delos Santos was shot and killed because he shot at them first. Both claims were belied by pictures: In China’s case, satellite images showed its reclamation activities in late 2016; in the Caloocan case, CCTV footage showed the policemen dragging Kian off…

In short, both are bare-faced liars, caught red-handed by modern-day technology.

Q: How far do Filipinos trust China vs. America?

A: The Social Weather Stations survey in September 2016 showed that Filipinos trusted America the most (+66) and China the least (-33), among the countries surveyed. The SWS also reported that since 1994, when the question was first asked, America has always showed positive ratings, its lowest being +18 and its highest +82; China has showed positive trust ratings only 7 times out of 40, and its highest trust rating was +17 (lower than America’s lowest), while its lowest was -46.

In short, Filipinos don’t trust China any further than they can throw it (and China, a giant, can’t be thrown very far).

Q: So why does President Duterte trust China so much and distrust America?

A: No hard evidence on which to base an answer. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told me in an interview (you can catch it on Monday) that the President “listens.” Well, yes, he “listened” to the outraged cry against Kian’s murder, but he obviously hasn’t “listened” to the Filipino distrust of China (Filipinos have dealt with Chinese since pre-Hispanic times).

All these make up background for the current issue relating to China’s bare-faced lies or its treachery vis-à-vis the Philippines, which are well-documented in Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s book, “The South China Sea Disputes” (downloadable, free).

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While vowing eternal friendship with us and offering billions of dollars in “aid” (we should look that gift horse in the mouth, given the offerer’s predilection for mendacity), China has sent two frigates (warships), a coast guard vessel and two militia maritime fishing boats, to guard Sandy Cay (which is Philippine territory, being within 12 nautical miles from Pagasa). Moreover, it has prevented a Philippine government vessel from approaching.

Q: Why should Filipinos be worried?

A: Because it is the same strategy that China employed to gain control of Scarborough Shoal (Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc) off Zambales in 2012. More, after the United States brokered a deal under which Chinese and Philippine ships were to leave the area, China reneged on what it had agreed to; the Philippines left, in good faith. Nadenggoy tayo. Which is why we went to The Hague, and won our case.

The effect of Sandy Cay’s occupation by China is enormous, according to Justice Carpio. It will reduce Pagasa’s territorial sea by a third or more, and it will prevent us from claiming Subi Reef. “By any yardstick, this is a seizure of Philippine territory.” And he demanded that the Philippines take active diplomatic and legal measures on record.

Q: What is the Duterte administration doing about it?

A: The reaction is such that one would think it was lawyering for China. To wit: 1) What ships? (It denied their existence, although they were caught on satellite); 2) The ships are just exercising the right of innocent passage. (Carpio: Innocent passage requires no stopping, or loitering. The ships have been there since Aug. 12—again caught on satellite); 3) AMTI-CSIS, the think tank that provided the pictures, is American, therefore it is there to promote US interests. (Me: What? Do we think they photoshopped the whole thing?); 4) We are not going to war over a sandbar. (Me: Nobody suggested going to war. Moreover, that sandbar, since it has high-tide elevation, is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it, more than twice the land area of Metro Manila).

And lastly, Q: This issue is one where we need the best and brightest to decide on strategy. Why isn’t Justice Carpio in the loop?

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106634/nagging-questions-china#ixzz4qyo0e8JE
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Vietnam calls for Southeast Asian unity amid South China Sea tension

August 24, 2017

Vietnam’s most powerful leader has called for greater unity among Southeast Asian states at a time the country has appeared increasingly isolated in challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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FILE PHOTO: Vietnam’s General Secretary of the Communist Party and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong talks to media after he casts his vote for members of the 14th National Assembly and People’s Councils at a polling station in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kham/Files

HANOI: Vietnam’s most powerful leader has called for greater unity among Southeast Asian states at a time the country has appeared increasingly isolated in challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Making the first visit by a Vietnamese communist party chief to Indonesia, Nguyen Phu Trong said in a speech televised at home on Wednesday that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) needed to be unified in resolving territorial disputes.

“Do not let ASEAN become a playing card for the competition among major countries,” Trong said, without identifying which he meant.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s claims in the South China Sea, where more than US$3 trillion in cargo pass every year.

To China’s annoyance, Vietnam held out an ASEAN meeting this month for language in a communique that noted concern about island-building and criticized militarization in the South China Sea.

Chinese pressure forced Vietnam to stop drilling for oil last month in a Vietnamese oil block that China claims. Beijing has also been angered by Vietnam’s growing defence links to the United States, Japan and India.

Some Southeast Asian countries are wary about the possible repercussions of defying Beijing by taking a stronger stand on the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the sea, which commands strategic sealanes and has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.

After Indonesia, Trong is due to visit Myanmar.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Lincoln Feast)

Source: Reuters
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/vietnam-calls-for-southeast-asian-unity-amid-south-china-sea-tension-9152728

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines’ current climate undermines the country’s deterrent and defense capability — “A pawn between the U.S. and China could find life difficult.”

August 24, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the United States Pacific Command, to Malacañan Palace as the latter paid a courtesy call on the President on August 23. Also in the photo is US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim. Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s public pronouncements on the Philippines’ decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States undermines the country’s deterrent capability, an analyst said.

Earlier this week, the president said that he will not invoke the defense treaty with the US if the Philippines confronts China in its violations in the South China Sea, and if the latter chooses the aggressive path.

“I will not call on America. I have lost trust in the Americans,” Duterte said, known for his personal stance against the US.

The president made the statement after dismissing the warning of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that Chinese are operating on a sandbar near Philippines-controlled Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea—the part of the South China Sea the Philippines claims as under its jurisdiction.

READ: Duterte: Why defend disputed sandbar?

“Everyone knows that President Duterte doesn’t like or trust the United States, and perhaps this was always his position on the MDT, but why say it publicly?” Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, told Philstar.com.

“Even if he didn’t have any intention of ever invoking the treaty, there is no benefit and plenty of risks to telling the Chinese that,” he added.

The military alliance between the Philippines and the US dates back to 1951, where representatives of the two countries signed the MDT.

Under the treaty, both the Philippines and the US would support each other if either one of the nations were to be attacked by an external party.

RELATED: The history of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty since 1951

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/24/1732267/analyst-dutertes-stance-puts-defense-capability-risk

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A former defense official in China told Peace and Freedom, “A pawn between the U.S. and China could find life difficult. One has to choose.”

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

‘Never give up honor, sovereignty and sovereign rights’

August 23, 2017

By   – @inquirerdotnet

07:24 AM August 23, 2017

(Editor’s Note: Below is the acceptance speech delivered on Aug. 19 by the Supreme Court senior associate justice on behalf of this year’s recipients of the UP Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Awards.)

On behalf of this year’s alumni awardees, I wish to thank the board of directors of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association headed by its president, Atty. Ramon Maronilla, for this signal award conferred on us.

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I am sure I speak for all of the awardees here tonight that we are truly honored and humbled by this recognition. We will certainly treasure this award.

Show honor

This year’s theme of the alumni homecoming is “Itanghal ang Dangal” — show honor.

Honor is, of course, the first half of the UP motto—“Honor and Excellence.”

The emphasis on showing honor correctly points out that honor comes before excellence, that there must be honor above all, even as there must be excellence in all that we do.

For excellence without honor is a recipe for national disaster.

A society that has an abundance of excellence but a scarcity of honor is a society in deep trouble.

Excellence without honor creates evil geniuses and develops a culture of greed — all at the expense of the common good.

That is why the university must continuously teach our students, and the alumni must ceaselessly show by example, that there must be honor above all, even as we strive for excellence in all that we do.

Priceless

Honor is priceless, for once it has a price, then it can be for sale.

A nation’s sovereignty and sovereign rights are also priceless. If you put a price tag on our country’s sovereignty or sovereign rights, then another country may buy our country’s sovereignty or sovereign rights.

Our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, like our honor as UP alumni, are priceless. They are not for sale.

Our sovereign rights belong to present and future generations of Filipinos.

The duty of this present generation of Filipinos is to defend and preserve our sovereign rights, and pass on these rights to the next generation for the benefit of all succeeding generations of Filipinos.

No generation of Filipinos, and no individual Filipino, has the right to sell or waive the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. Any such sale or waiver is a betrayal of the nation.

In this battle to defend and preserve our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, we use the most powerful weapon ever invented by man, a weapon that can neutralize warships, warplanes, missiles and nuclear bombs, and that weapon is the rule of law.

Armed solely with this legal weapon, we won a great battle in July 2016 in The Hague at a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) tribunal, which awarded to the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea a vast exclusive economic zone, with an area larger than our total land area.

Next step

The next step is to enforce the award of the tribunal. This involves perseverance, steely determination, and a well-thought-out and carefully crafted long-term strategy.

I have no doubt that if we stay the course, the award of the tribunal will gradually be followed over time because the alternative is the demise of the law of the sea.

If the Unclos cannot apply in the South China Sea, then it cannot apply in the rest of the oceans and seas of the world.

Instead of the rule of law, the rule of the naval cannon will prevail in the oceans and seas.

The world community of civilized nations will not allow this to happen.

And even if we cannot immediately enforce the award because of the overwhelming might of the other side, we still acquit ourselves with respect before future generations of Filipinos because we are doing our duty with honor in accordance with the rule of law.

We would be setting a fine example to future generations of what it means to do our historic duty with honor.

Against all odds

That to me is the true meaning of “Itanghal ang dangal”—show, display and uphold honor against all odds.

Today, we face the gravest external threat to Philippine national security since World War II.

At stake is a huge maritime area rich in fishery, oil, gas and other mineral resources—either we keep this huge maritime area or we lose it to China forever.

The battle for the West Philippine Sea is the modern-day equivalent of the battles that our forebears fought, and even sacrificed their lives, to win and secure our sovereignty on land.

It is the turn of our generation to face the historic duty to defend the sovereign rights of the Filipino people in the sea.

To my fellow alumni of this great university: Never give up your honor, never give up our sovereignty, and never give up our sovereign rights!

Maraming salamat, mabuhay ang Pilipinas, mabuhay ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, mabuhay tayong lahat!

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/924838/never-give-up-honor-sovereignty-and-sovereign-rights#ixzz4qaULyG3c
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Filipino officials: Chinese navy stalked Philippine area — Philippine Government not telling all they know?

August 22, 2017
 / 08:04 PM August 22, 2017

In this Friday, April 21, 2017 photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, two Filipino security officials said China has deployed its navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them in an emerging territorial issue that the government stated was quickly resolved. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines- China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said Tuesday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors’ friendlier ties.

Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.

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The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country’s territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has in recent days refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.

A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China “is concerned that we will build” structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.

A government security report seen by the AP says Chinese navy ships with bow numbers 504, 545 and 168, a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 46115, and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay. Its nearest sandbar is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu’s southwest coast, the report said.

Philippine troops and villagers based at Thitu call it Pag-asa -Tagalog for hope – while the Chinese call the island Zhongye Dao.

The Chinese military presence near Thitu sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island’s 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters.

“In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China,” Carpio said in a statement over the weekend.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have the constitutional duty to defend and protect Philippine territory.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” Carpio said. “If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty binds the allies to come to the aid of each other when attacked.

Cayetano, however, told reporters Tuesday that the issue has been diplomatically resolved and denied that China has invaded Sandy Cay.

“Let me assure you, there is no more problem in that area,” Cayetano told reporters, declining to provide details. “But it is not true that there was an attempt to invade or seize it.”

Much-friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing under Duterte have allowed both governments to manage their disputes better. “If our relationship with our neighbors isn’t this good, the situation in the West Philippine Sea will be much, much worse,” Cayetano said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Duterte told reporters over dinner late Monday that he has been assured by China’s ambassador in Manila, Zhao Jianhua, and the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures on Sandy Cay.

“They’re not invading,” ABS-CBN TV network quoted Duterte as saying. “They are just there but they are not claiming anything.”

One of the Philippine security officials said the military has been monitoring the Chinese presence at Sandy Cay but added it was difficult to check if Beijing’s ships were still there due to bad weather in the remote offshore region.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/159933/china-west-philippine-sea-west-philippine-sea-sandy-cay-uninhabited-sandbars#ixzz4qURzNHPe
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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Struggles With Question of Sovereignty, International Law Over Sandy Cay as China Watches

August 22, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with the Malacañang Press Corps at the Malago Clubhouse, Malacañang Park in Manila on August 21, 2017. PPD

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed the warning of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the Chinese are invading a sandbar near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio earlier urged the Philippine government to act on China’s “invasion” of Sandy Cay, located some 2.5 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island and well within the island’s 12-nautical mile territorial waters.

READ: Carpio: China virtually occupying Sandy Cay

The president, on the other hand, said that there is no reason to defend the sandbar as China was only patrolling the area.

“Why should I defend a sandbar and kill the Filipinos because of a sandbar?” Duterte told reporters Monday night.

Duterte added that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua assured him that Beijing will not be building facilities in the area.

Image result for sandy cay, philippines, photos
Sandy Cay

“Hindi nga na-invade eh. Hindi naman totoo iyong sinasabi ni ano — they are just there but they are not claiming anything,” Duterte said.

Carpio called on Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to protest the invasion of Philippine territory of China as it reportedly has two frigates, a coast guard vessel and two military fishing boats around Sandy Cay.

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File photo

RELATED: Photos confirm Chinese flotilla near Pag-asa

The SC justice stressed that Duterte and Cayetano both vowed to the Filipino people that they will not concede a single inch of Philippine territory to China.

Duterte, however, does not see any reason why China would occupy the sandbar near the Manila-claimed island.

“Why would they risk invading a sandbar and get into a quarrel with us? Ano ang makuha nila?” he said.

Carpio earlier explained that Sandy Cay was discussed in the final ruling of an international tribunal which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

Located between Pag-asa Island and Zamora Reef, Sandy Cay is a disappearing sandbar — appearing only for a few months before it disappears.

“Apparently, because of China’s dredging in Subi Reef, pulverized corals drifted and gathered at Sandy Cay and made it permanently above water at high-tide. As a high-tide elevation, Sandy Cay is now land or territory capable of sovereign ownership with its own territorial sea and territorial airspace,” Carpio said.

Satellite imagery released by Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last week confirmed reports that Chinese vessels had been operating near Pag-asa Island.

RELATED: Cayetano defends Chinese presence near Pag-asa

The think tank said that the presence of Chinese ships in the area may be an indication that Beijing is discouraging Manila from its planned construction on Pag-asa.

“It is important to note that ownership of the territorial waters in which these ships are operating is still legally disputed. Subi was a low-tide elevation before China built an artificial island on it,” AMTI said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/22/1731595/duterte-why-defend-disputed-sandbar

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 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

 

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Some Philippine Leaders Herald a New Era of Cooperation with China, while Others Warn of a Buildup of Chinese Naval and Civilian Vessels

August 20, 2017

Satellite photograph showing Chinese ships near Thitu (Pag-asa) Island (Photo: AMTI)

The week began with signs that the détente between the Philippines and China was coming along smoothly. Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told a congressional hearing on Monday that China had promised to stop occupying new features in the South China Sea and to stop building new installations in the Scarborough Shoal. According to Lorenzana, the two countries had reached a “modus vivendi,” or a “way of getting along,” in the South China Sea that would involve an end of China’s building projects.

The next day, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told the Philippine House of Representatives that the government is considering working with China to develop petroleum resources in the disputed waters between the two countries. Cayetano said that the project, if confirmed, would not cede any Philippine territory or sovereignty to China – perhaps a response to earlier remarks by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio that an oil and gas joint venture in Philippine territory would endanger the country’s sovereignty. “I will assure you, any legal framework will conform with local laws and the Constitution,” Cayetano said.

But the very same day, Congressman Gary Alejano reported that a number of Chinese PLA Navy ships had been deployed near Thitu, or Pag-asa, Island, a large island in the Spratly Islands that the Philippines occupy. According to Alejano’s “military sources,” a pair of Chinese frigates, a coast guard ship, and some fishing ships affiliated with China’s maritime militia were located a few miles north of Thitu Island. In a press conference, the Congressman described the ships as “suspicious,” and said: “I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China.”

On Wednesday, Secretary Cayetano responded to Congressman Alejano’s report: he could not confirm the presence of the Chinese ships, but added that “[t]he presence of ships alone does not mean anything…the situation in the area is very stable.” Cayetano said that China was not an enemy and should not be treated as such. “It’s good we have people like Congressman Alejano who reminds us to monitor the situation,” he said. “But there’s a thin line between informing us and stirring up the situation.” Responding to Cayetano’s remarks, Alejano expressed dissatisfaction with Cayetano for “brushing aside the unusual and suspicious presence of several huge military and Chinese ships…in the vicinity of our largest island.”

Though neither Lorenzana or Cayetano confirmed the presence of the ships, Alejano released photographs of what he claimed were Chinese ships operating near Thitu Island.  The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released satellite images that seem to indicate that Chinese naval and civilian waters were indeed present in the area. According to AMTI’s report, “On that day, there were nine Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels visible near Thitu…with others possibly under cloud cover. It is impossible to know if any of those ships might be affiliated with the maritime militia, but at least two appear to be actively fishing…”  The report added that the flotilla’s presence was “highly provocative” and speculated that Beijing might have intended to “dissuade Manila from planned construction on Thitu.”

In Other News…

United States

On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrived in Beijing for talks with top Chinese military leaders.  At the opening of the dialogue, Gen. Dunford said that the two sides intended to discuss “difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspective,” but that they “shared a commitment to work through these difficulties.”

On Tuesday, Gen. Dunford met with PLA Gen. Fang Fenghui to sign an agreement announcing a new communication mechanism between the two militaries. Accordingto U.S. Joint Staff officials, the agreement would “enable us to communicate to reduce the risk of miscalculation” and to mitigate potential crises. The two sides agreed to work together to develop the framework, with the first meeting scheduled for November. Few details were released about how the mechanism would work or when it would be used, but both sides spoke of the need to develop trust and openness. Gen. Dunford said that crisis communications between the United States and China is critical, but that avoiding miscommunication was “the minimum standard.” Rather than simply working to avert a crisis, he said, “We should also try to see areas to cooperate.” Gen. Fang agreed, stating that the American and Chinese armies could work together to cooperate as partners.

Japan

Meanwhile, the United States was deepening its military ties with Japan as well. The two countries commenced a series of joint military operations on and around the Japanese island of Hokkaido on August 10. On Tuesday, the two countries’ air forces conducted drills near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan occupies but China and Taiwan claim. In a statement, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said, “These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

Vietnam

The Deepsea Metro I, a drilling ship contracted by Vietnam’s PetroVietnam and the Spanish firm Repsol to drill for oil in disputed waters claimed by China, arrived near the Malaysian port of Labuan on Monday. The ship was last reported at the drilling site on July 30. Vietnam canceled its plans to explore for petroleum in the disputed waters under intense pressure from China. Gregory Polling, the director of the AMTI, arguedthat the departure of the drilling ship signaled that Vietnam was unable to stand up to China without support from the United States or the regional powers of the South China Sea.

Taiwan

Taiwan placed its military on high alert after the Chinese air force conducted operations around – and sometimes within – Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the weekend and on Monday. Taiwanese Defense Ministry Spokesman Chen Chung-ji stated, “Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or airspace or even engaging in hostility.” The drills included bombers and surveillance aircraft and marked the eighth time that Chinese military aircraft have trained near Taiwan since July.

Analysis, Commentary, and Additional Information

Mark Valencia argues in the South China Morning Post that China and the United States should develop guidelines for naval operations off of each other’s’ shores. According to Valencia, the two sides have reached a sort of settled pattern in which the United States conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in Chinese-claimed waters, and Beijing expresses disapproval. However, he says, this status quo is not stable. For example, if China tried to interfere with the American patrols, or if Japanese naval forces joined the U.S. Navy’s FONOPs, a conflict could easily break out. To avoid this outcome, Valencia argues that the two sides should work together to establish norms and rules governing how their navies will operate in contested waters.

Writing in The Diplomat, Tuan N. Pham claims that China’s aggressive naval and air operations in the South China Sea are increasingly at odds with its own interpretations of international maritime law. He points out that Beijing regularly claims that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights conducted by the United States and other countries in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are unlawful, while the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) increasingly conducts similar operations in other countries’ EEZs. Pham predicts that “[a]s the PLAN continues to operate in distant waters and in proximity to other nations’ coastlines, Beijing may have no choice but to eventually address the inconsistency between policy and operations — and either pragmatically adjust its standing policy or continue to assert its untenable authority to regulate military activities in its EEZ. The former is more likely, while the latter carries more risks in terms of the legal validity of its own maritime sovereignty claims, international credibility, and world standing.”

Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council and James Przystup of the National Defense University argue in Foreign Policy that American politicians and commentators overstate the importance of the South China Sea to America’s national interests. They argue that America’s interests in the South China Sea have always been limited to freedom of navigation and freedom of maritime commerce. On the other hand, “Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea is political and strategic in nature,” key to both the legitimacy of the Communist Party and China’s overall security. Manning and Przystup conclude that the United States should acknowledge that, due to this “asymmetry of respective Chinese and U.S. geopolitical interests,” it must accept a larger Chinese role in the South China Sea.

Water Wars is our weekly roundup of the latest news, analysis, and opinions related to ongoing tensions in the South and East China Seas. Please email Sarah Grant with breaking news, relevant documents, or corrections

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South China Sea: Proposed Code of Conduct With China Bypasses International Law

August 4, 2017
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In this Thursday, July 27, 2017 photo, a man and a child look at a picture showing the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly islands, in the disputed South China Sea, on display at the military museum in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry has criticized plans by Britain to send its new aircraft carriers on freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the strategic waterway, accusing it of stirring up trouble. Meanwhile, an official Chinese magazine says President Xi Jinping personally directed the enlargement of China’s presence in the South China Sea, crediting him with constructing a “maritime Great Wall.” AP/Andy Wong

MANILA, Philippines — The framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea will not serve as an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues.

Foreign ministers of ASEAN and China are expected to adopt the framework that will serve as an outline for a code of conduct on the disputed waters.

In a two-page document acquired by Philstar.com, one of the main objectives of the code is to establish a rules-based framework to guide the conduct of parties and to promote maritime cooperation in the disputed South China Sea.

Despite not being an instrument to settle disputes, the framework stated the parties’ commitment to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other principles of international law.

The framework did not include the arbitral ruling of a UN-backed tribunal that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. Last year, the international tribunal ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS following its reclamation activities within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

READ: DFA: Framework on South China Sea code might skip Hague ruling

The framework of the code of conduct stressed “[r]espect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law, and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”

This echoes President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks during his opening speech at the 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Manila last April, where he urged his Southeast Asian counterparts to set the tone of talks based on non-interference.

“Dialogue relations can be made more productive constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the ASEAN member states is observed,” Duterte said in his speech last April 29.

Meanwhile, another objective of the framework is to “promote mutual trust, cooperation and confidence, prevent incidents, manage incidents should they occur and create a favorable environment for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The framework also expressed commitment to a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties or DOC in the South China Sea.

In 2002, ASEAN member countries and China signed the DOC in Cambodia to resolve conflicting maritime claims peacefully. More than 14 years later, the concerned parties are yet to complete a binding code of conduct.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/04/1725052/south-china-sea-code-framework-skips-dispute-settlement

Peace and Freedom Comment: How can you trust a party to a Code of Conduct when they have already proven their unwillingness to follow international law?

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Philippines and Vietnam Have Legal Claims in the South China Sea; China Does Not — Philippine Supreme Court Senior Justice Has a Way To Follow The Law

August 4, 2017
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War never is an option. Diplomacy can fortify the UN ruling on Manila’s row with Beijing. Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio enumerates some diplomatic initiatives, in a presentation to the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute. Third of four parts:

There is no world policeman or sheriff to enforce the arbitral ruling. However, states that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea expressly bound themselves to comply in good faith with decisions of arbitral tribunals created under UNCLOS. China is reneging on this treaty obligation.

The option for the Philippines is not “talk or go to war with China.” This is a false option, and shows a dismal lack of understanding of international law and relations.

First, the Philippine Constitution prohibits war as instrument of national policy. Second, the UN Charter has outlawed war as a means of settling disputes between states. In resolving the SCS dispute, war is not and has never been an option. That is precisely why the Philippines filed the arbitration case against China.

If the Philippines starts a war against China, it would surely lose, and lose badly. If the Philippines is the aggressor, that will violate the Constitution and the UN Charter. The Philippines cannot invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty because the treaty is only for defense, not for aggression. President Duterte’s oft-repeated question – whether the US will support and join the Philippines if we go to war against China – is a misguided question because the US is not bound by the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty to support any act of aggression by the Philippines. If the US joins the Philippines in a war of aggression, the US will also be in breach of the UN Charter.

China itself does not want to start a war because war will give the US an excuse to intervene in the SCS dispute, since to defend itself the Philippines will certainly invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. China’s strategy is to control the SCS without firing a shot. Those who raise the issue of war with China either do not understand the Three Warfares Strategy of China, or are scaring the Filipino people to submit to China’s designs in the SCS.

The real and practical option for the Philippines is to “talk with China while taking measures to fortify the arbitral ruling.” We should talk with China on the COC, on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) for naval and coast guard vessels, on conservation of fish stocks, on preservation of maritime environment, and on how our fishermen can fish in Scarborough Shoal. There are many other things to talk with China on the SCS dispute even if China refuses to discuss the arbitral ruling.

As we talk with China, we can fortify the ruling in many ways:

(1) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Vietnam on our overlapping Extended Continental Shelves in the Spratlys, based on the ruling of the tribunal that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such an agreement implements part of the arbitral ruling by state practice.

(2) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Malaysia on our overlapping EEZ and ECS in the Spratlys, again based on the ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such agreement also implements part of the ruling by state practice.

(3) The Philippines can file an ECS claim beyond our 200 NM EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon. If China does not oppose, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) will award the ECS to the Philippines, similar to our ECS claim in Benham Rise where there was no opposition. If China opposes our ECS claim, it will have a dilemma on what ground to invoke. If China invokes the nine-dashed lines again, the UNCLCS will reject the opposition because the UNCLCS is bound by the ruling of the arbitral tribunal which, like the UNCLCS, was created under UNCLOS. If China claims an overlapping ECS, then China will be admitting that the Philippines has a 200 NM EEZ from Luzon that negates the nine-dashed lines.

(4) The arbitral tribunal has ruled that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. The Philippines can initiate an agreement among all ASEAN disputant states – Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines – declaring that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generate an EEZ that could overlap with their respective EEZs. Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them, leaving only the territorial disputes. This will isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratlys.

(5) The Philippines can claim damages before an UNCLOS tribunal for the “severe, permanent harm” to the marine environment, as ruled by the arbitral tribunal, that China caused within Philippine EEZ in the Spratlys because of China’s dredging and its failure to stop Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered species.

(6) In case China shows signs of reclaiming Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines can file a new case before an UNCLOS arbitral tribunal to stop the reclamation because any reclamation in Scarborough Shoal will destroy the traditional fishing ground common to fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and China as ruled by the tribunal.

The ruling involves only maritime, not territorial issues. Enforcing it does not mean forcibly evicting China from the islands and high-tide elevations it occupies in the SCS, as occupation of these geologic features is a territorial issue. There are still many commentators in media who fail to distinguish between territorial and maritime disputes, and thus wrongly conclude that enforcing the ruling means going to war with China on the territorial dispute. (More on Monday)

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http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/08/04/1724629/enforce-un-ruling-carpio-lists-ways

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

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