Posts Tagged ‘Chinese fishermen’

Australia revamps Pacific strategy as China looms

November 8, 2018

With an eye on China’s growing role in the Pacific, Australia on Thursday announced Aus$3 billion in financial enticements to boost its presence in the region, accompanied by a series of security and political initiatives.

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Beijing is piling investment into the Pacific, sending ever more fishing vessels deeper into its waters and reportedly mulling the construction of a military base on Vanuatu.

© AFP/File | Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to boost Australia’s engagement in the Pacific

Faced with this increasing Chinese influence, Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to take Australia’s engagement “to a new level.”

“We want to work with our Pacific Islands partners to build a Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically,” Morrison said as he prepares for a major Asian-Pacific summit in Port Moresby next week.

He underscored a series of security, economic and diplomatic initiatives, including the donation of patrol boats and the development of a joint military base in Papua New Guinea.

The centerpiece however is cold hard cash — much sought after by poverty-hit countries in the region — with Morrison announcing a Aus$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) fund”to significantly boost Australia’s support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste”.

He also announced a further Aus$1 billion for export financing to support investments in the region.

Morrison’s government has been preoccupied by domestic infighting and has diverged politically from Pacific Island nations threatened by rising waters, by questioning climate change.

Australia has long been a major political player in much of the south and west Pacific, but has lost ground with China ploughing massive investment into the region as part of its “Belt and Road” initiative.

Although the Pacific islands are small in size, and a less vital waterway for trade than the contested South China Sea, their exclusive economic zones make up a massive proportion of the world’s maritime assets.

And the region has become increasingly important as Beijing has signalled its intent to develop a “Blue Water” navy that can project Chinese power far beyond its coastal waters.

The Chinese authorities have also been keen to harness natural resources from hardwood to nickel and have — with notable success — tried to entice countries in the region to drop recognition of Taiwan, isolating its cross-strait foe.

The number of Chinese fishing vessels operating in the tuna-rich waters of the Pacific has also increased from 244 in 2010 to over 600, according to data from Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Without mentioning China by name, Morrison — whose foreign minister is in Beijing this week — hailed common values with island nations and said he would expand Australia’s diplomatic footprint to “every member country of the Pacific Islands Forum”.

Australian media reported that Morrison will continue his charm offensive at the Asia-Pacific summit in Port Moresby, where he will host leaders for a barbecue.

He will have competition from Xi Jinping, who is also expected to meet a host of regional leaders when he attends the summit.

US president Donald Trump will not attend, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his stead.




Vietnam’s response to China’s militarized fishing fleet — “In the fight for fish, Vietnam and the Philippines haven’t a chance”

August 6, 2018

China has long been infamous for incorporating maritime militias into its fishing industry to assert its sovereignty claims. With the world’s largest fishing fleet, comprising 370,000 non-powered and 762,000 motor-powered vessels, China has the capacity and resources to push more of its fishermen to the front line of maritime disputes.

Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of clashes between Chinese fishermen and the coast guards of other countries in the region. As the most serious challenger of China’s hegemonic ambition in the South China Sea, Vietnam is combining different tactics to respond.

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Vietnam has reinforced its own fishing fleet to sail out to the disputed waters. In 2009, Vietnam’s National Assembly passed the Law on Militia and Self-Defense Forces that paved the way for the ‘fishing militia’ to officially operate.

A year later, then-prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung ratified Plan 1902 to pilot the operation of the maritime self-defense forces. An estimated 8000 vessels and 1.22 per cent of Vietnam’s maritime labor are members of the fishing militia.

Then, in the 2014 HD-981 incident, a deep-water Chinese oil rig moved into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and dozens of Vietnamese wooden boats surrounded the area to assist the coast guard in the standoff. Although there was no official call from the government, a letter of encouragement by then-president Truong Tan Sang and a call from the state-sponsored Vietnam Fisheries Society for fishermen to sail to the disputed waters implied that Hanoi implicitly incorporated civil vessels into sovereignty-protection activities.

Steel-hulled Chinese fishing boats also took part in the standoff, which led to perhaps the first time that two covert fishing militias collided with each other. This did not end well for the Vietnamese: a wooden boat was sunk and several others were badly damaged.

Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea (Associated Press Image)

Following the HD-981 incident, Vietnamese policymakers were willing to commit more resources to strengthen their largely outdated fishing fleet. Two months after the standoff Hanoi issued Decree 67,  which aimed to support fishermen to build bigger and more modern steel-hulled boats that are able to resist bad weather and threats from Chinese vessels and venture further into contested areas.

The government assigned a preferential loan of around US$400 million in just three years to support building new fishing boats and renovating old ones. Around 800 ships have been built, half of which are steel-hulled. An additional 2000 ships are qualified for the government’s credit program and will receive funding soon.

Vietnam does not have either the resources or political will to go head-to-head with China in the South China Sea. The number of Chinese fishing vessels has increased dramatically from just 50,000 in 1979 to over 700,000 in 2014.

Among these, 200,000 are offshore fishing vessels that can venture as far as the South Pacific. Vietnam had just 30,000 offshore fishing boats in 2014. As a low middle-income country, Vietnam cannot afford to pay around US$27,000 for a trip to disputed waters to assert sovereignty as China has been alleged to do.

Upgrading the fishing fleet is part of Hanoi’s multi-dimensional approach, which includes empowering the official maritime law enforcement and cooperating more closely with the international community on fishing issues. The National Assembly is currently discussing a new draft law to give the Vietnamese Coast Guard (VCG) more power and resources to carry out their sovereignty-protection activities.

In recent years, the VCG has also received technical and equipment assistance from China’s competitors, particularly the United StatesJapan and India. Along with the VCG, the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance (VFRS) was established in 2013. The VFRS is armed and allowed to use force if necessary. Those two units, under the cover of civilian law enforcement, will reinforce Vietnam’s position in the South China Sea.

(Image from Pexels user Le Minh)

Vietnam recently accelerated its collaboration with its neighbours to prevent illegal fishing, particularly after Hanoi was yellow-carded by the European Union last year. Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understandingwith Australia to tackle illegal fishing in 2017.

Hanoi has also pledged to cooperate with Indonesia, a country that has destroyed dozens of Vietnamese boats and captured nearly 600 Vietnamese citizens for illegally fishing in Indonesia waters. At the national level, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc approved a national plan in early 2018 to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by 2025.

Vietnamese leaders are well aware that as a small country, the only feasible way to counter Beijing is to abide by the international order, not defy it. After an international arbitral tribunal ruled that Scarborough Shoal is the traditional fishing ground for fishermen of regional countries, Vietnamese ships and VCG vessels were present in the area. This is a smart move to keep the ruling alive, particularly after the recent warming in China–Philippines relations.

Small countries cannot keep up with China, either economically or militarily, in the South China Sea dispute. But staying inactive and just calling for help from the international community in this time of chaos does not work well either. Vietnam’s act of balancing between reinforcing their own fishing fleet and adapting to international law might be the optimal choice for Southeast Asian claimant states to cope with China’s new tactics.

Nguyen Khac Giang is Senior Researcher, Political Analysis, at the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR). This article originally appeared on East Asia Forum, published Aug. 4, 2018.


China to Militarize Coast Guard amid Maritime Rivalry from US, Southeast Asia — Mobilizing Fishermen

June 28, 2018

China’s Coast Guard has been more and more of a military-type force for years….

China’s fishermen increasingly operate in a military role….

By Ralph Jennings

A China Coast Guard vessel patrols at the disputed Scarborough Shoal April 6, 2017.
A China Coast Guard vessel patrols at the disputed Scarborough Shoal April 6, 2017.

Beijing is placing its coast guard under military command to warn foreign nations, including the United States, against interfering with its control over the disputed South China Sea, experts say.This change, effective July 1, follows the passage of U.S. navy vessels through the sea seven times since U.S. President Donald Trump took office last year and a B-52 fighter plane flyover by the United States earlier this month.

The coast guard’s new command fits Chinese President Xi Jinping’s effort since 2012 to improve the reach and capability of the armed forces, scholars believe.

Reassignment of the coast guard from the State Oceanic Administration to the People’s Armed Police will “enable it to play a bigger role in emergencies and crises including war,” the Communist Party-run news website Global Times said Monday.

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“While certainly increasing their presence, also it’s to send a message that they’re determined to protect their territorial integrity,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan. “Certainly the U.S. will pay attention to it.”

Stronger coast guard under military control

China will establish a “marine police corps” under the armed police to enforce laws and protect China’s maritime “rights” following a decision June 22, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The government’s Central Military Commission will oversee the new coast guard, letting the fleet get involved more easily in naval exercises, the Global Times said, citing a Chinese military expert.

Xi told the army last year to “enhance its capability to win wars,” Xinhua said. The Chinese navy had been venturing last year past its traditional zone along the Chinese coasts toward the high seas.

The coast guard’s 16,300 personnel and 164 cutters will probably do more joint patrols with the navy, experts say. The two units already patrolled the sea’s Paracel Islands together last month, news media in Asia reported last month.

Warnings to Southeast Asia, United States

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all compete with China’s claims in the sea, which is prized for fisheries, oil and natural gas. China cites historical records to support its claim to about 90 percent of it.

China has built military installations on several islets in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer tropical sea, irritating the other claimants.

The coast guard as a military unit “strengthens the perception and reality of ‘militarization’” of the sea, said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Chinese coast guard vessels, sometimes sent to protect fishing fleets, have ranged as far into the sea as Indonesia, which protested over an incident in 2016.

Washington regards the sea as an international waterway. The U.S. government sends naval vessels as “freedom of navigation operations.”

“The enhanced cooperation indicates the strengthening of Chinese capability to deter or harass U.S. freedom of navigation operations,” Sun said.

Heightened vigilance

China’s coast guard will “not pose a threat” to other countries if “they don’t provoke China’s sovereignty and maritime rights,” the Global Times said, citing the military expert.

But military command of the Chinese coast guard will put other claimants, as well as the United States and its allies, more on guard, other analysts say.

The Southeast Asian states lack China’s firepower, but Vietnam and the Philippines have turned in the past to the United States for defense.

The other maritime claimants and Indonesia may take a stauncher “posture” toward the military-managed coast guard, Koh said.

“This more muscular posture of putting the navy and the coast guard together is a way to tell the other claimants that you don’t trifle with us,” said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

When fishing or coast guard vessels from other countries run into China’s coast guard now, they don’t expect it to be “heavily armed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea think tank in Taipei. They would see the fleet differently under central military command, he said.

“Other countries may have a different view of what the China coast guard represents, and that could definitely make people nervous in those unanticipated encounters, and maybe other countries will see this development as something they need to respond to in terms of restructuring their own coast guards,” Spangler said.


Related image

Chinese J-11 Fighters Deployed To Woody Island In South China Sea

China J-11 Flanker fighters operating from Woody Island located in the northern portion of the South China Sea.

South China Sea: China demands Indonesia drop new name for Natuna waters — “Indonesia complicated and expanded of the dispute.”

September 3, 2017
  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, September 3, 2017 | 03:51 pm

China demands Indonesia drop new name for Natuna watersIndonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stands on deck of Indonesian Navy ship KRI Imam Bonjol after chairing a limited Cabinet meeting in Natuna Islands waters in the province of Riau Islands. (Kompas/.)

China has issued a demand for Indonesia to reverse its decision to rename the South China Sea (SCS) waters that lie within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In July, the Indonesian government named the maritime region in question, which lies north of the Natuna Islands, the “North Natuna Sea.”

Channel News Asia reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent an official note to the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing dated Aug. 25, expressing its opposition to the move.

In the letter, China said Indonesia’s move to change an “internationally accepted name” resulted in the “complication and expansion of the dispute, and affects peace and stability”.

“The China-Indonesian relationship is developing in a healthy and stable way, and the South China Sea dispute is progressing well,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. “Indonesia’s unilateral name-changing actions are not conducive to maintaining this excellent situation.”

China and Indonesia had overlapping maritime claims in the southwest of the South China Sea, Beijing said, adding that renaming the area would not change that fact.

Shortly after renaming of the area, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Indonesia had every rights to make the decision.

“The North Natuna Sea falls within our territory, not within the South China Sea […] We have the right [to rename the waters], the North Natuna Sea is ours,” Susi said.


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Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta


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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 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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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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Philippines’ Greatest International Victory — Document to peacefully resolve disputes by international law — Lost by the wayside

July 15, 2017
 / 05:18 AM July 15, 2017

On July 12 a year ago, the Philippines won a stunning victory on the international front when the case it had brought against China was upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The ruling invalidated China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea: The court said China has “no historical rights” on the area via its so-called “nine-dash line,” and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights to fish and explore for minerals in waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

“Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China,” declared the ruling.

Not only that. While the court said it would not “rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and would not delimit any maritime boundary between the Parties” (China and the Philippines), it unequivocally declared that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone “by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”

In much of the international community, the ruling was immediately hailed as a milestone document, a way forward to clarify and resolve, via international law, the bitter disputes that have arisen over ownership and fishing rights in the South China Sea (Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to it alongside China and the Philippines). As late as last April, the issue was in the minds of the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States—when it issued a statement backing the ruling, saying it could be “a useful basis for further efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea.” G7 added that it strongly opposed “any unilateral actions which increase tensions, such as the threat or use of force, large-scale land reclamation, building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes and urge all parties to pursue demilitarization of disputed features and to comply with their obligations under international law.”

That reminder was deemed necessary, because China had not only rejected the tribunal’s ruling despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the arbitration case was heard; it also defied world opinion by upping the ante, constructing military facilities on three islands in the disputed region that have now allowed it to potentially deploy military forces and exercise an effective lockdown over the vital waters.

While other claimant countries have continued to protest Beijing’s muscle-flexing, the Philippines, the main beneficiary of the tribunal’s ruling, has instead chosen rapprochement with China by, first of all, “setting aside” the historic decision. That was how President Duterte worded his rebooted foreign policy, under which the Philippines would be silent for now on its legal claim, in exchange for billions of dollars in loans and financial commitments from its giant economic neighbor. The President sees it as a pragmatic arrangement: The Philippines is in no shape to fight China militarily, and so must assume a less provocative, more suppliant position.

Meanwhile, China’s encroachment and increasing control over the West Philippine Sea continues.

Only time will tell if the Duterte administration’s strategy over this invaluable piece of national patrimony is correct, or if in fact, as Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said, it “dropped the ball.”

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Indonesia Re-Names Parts of The South China Sea To Assert Its Sovereignty — The latest act of resistance against China — China calls the act “totally meaningless”

July 14, 2017
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Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia has renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China’s territorial ambitions in the maritime region.


Seen by analysts as an assertion of Indonesian sovereignty, part of the renamed sea is claimed by China under its contentious maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line’, that encompasses most of the resource-rich sea.

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Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno (C) stands in front of a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Several Southeast Asian states dispute China’s territorial claims and are competing with China to exploit the South China Sea’s abundant hydrocarbon and fishing resources. China has raised the ante by deploying military assets on artificial islands constructed on shoals and reefs in disputed parts of the sea.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Unveiling the new official map, the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oegroseno, noted the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

“We want to update the naming of the sea we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea,” he told reporters.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

In Beijing,  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he didn’t know anything about the details of the issue, but said the name South China Sea had broad international recognition and clear geographic limits.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing.

South China Sea: One Year After The Philippines Win At The Permanent Court of Arbitration — Brilliant Statecraft or Treason?

July 12, 2017

By Ellen Tordesillas

Posted at Jul 12 2017 02:46 AM

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One of the good things that President Duterte has done was to rekindle relations with China which reached its lowest ebb during the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

Never mind that during the election campaign, he rode on the anti-China sentiments of most Filipinos fueled by the pro-American leanings of Aquino and his Foreign Secretary, Albert del Rosario.

Remember, a standard in Duterte’s campaign speech was his boast that he will ride on a jet ski to one of the islands in the disputed Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag. He would kiss the flag to dramatize his promise. Once in Malacanang, he was asked when he was going to jetski to Spratlys and he replied it was a joke. He said he didn’t even know how to swim.

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In the guise of independent foreign policy, Duterte didn’t just cozy up to China. He attacked the United States when then President Barack Obama reminded him to respect human rights amid reports of rampant killings in connection with his anti-illegal drugs campaign.

His foreign policy moves can be likened to a pendulum that swung from extreme right to extreme left. Today marks first year anniversary of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on the case filed by the Philippines against China on the latter’s activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China did not participate in the Arbitral Court proceedings.

It was a major victory for the Philippines. The Arbitral Court declared invalid China’s nine-dashed line map which covers some 85 percent of the whole South China which infringes on the economic exclusive zones of other countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Arbitral Court also ruled that China’s  artificial islands – rocks that were turned into garrisons through reclamation – in the disputed South China Sea do not generate entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea such as economic exclusive zone (220 nautical miles from the shore) and extended continental shelf (350 nautical miles).

As to Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, which is within the Philippine EEZ, the Arbitral Court said it’s a traditional fishing ground of Philippine, Chinese, Vietnamese and fishermen of other nationalities and should be maintained as such.

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Filipino fishermen had been denied access to the area since April 2012 after a two-month stand off between Chinese and Philippine Coastguards following arrest by a Philippine warship of Chinese fishermen in Scarborough shoal. Two Chinese ships remained even after the Aquino government withdrew its ships.

Duterte takes pride that because of his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Filipino fishermen are now allowed to fish in the area, which is being guarded by two Chinese ships.

It’s like a battered wife thankful that the husband has stopped beating her.

Duterte’s critics have scored his deference to China even  echoing  the position of China that historically South China Sea is theirs  as the name states.

In an ambush interview last April. Duterte said, “They really claim it as their own, noon pa iyan. Hindi lang talaga pumutok nang mainit. Ang nagpainit diyan iyong Amerikano. Noon pa iyan, kaya (It goes way back. The issue just did not erupt then. What triggered the conflict were the Americans. But it goes all the way back. That’s why it’s called) China Sea… sabi nga nila (they say) China Sea, historical na iyan. So hindi lang iyan pumuputok (It’s historical. The issue just had not erupted then) but this issue was the issue before so many generations ago.”

VERA Files fact-check about the name of South China Sea showed  that  South China Sea used to be called the Champa Sea, after the Cham people who established a great maritime kingdom in central Vietnam from the late 2nd to the 17th century.

That is contained in the book,  ‘The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea” by  Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Carpio said it was the  Portuguese navigators who coined the name South China Sea.

“The ancient Malays also called this sea Laut Chidol or the South Sea, as recorded by Pigafetta in his account of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world from 1519 to 1522. In Malay, which is likewise derived from the Austronesian language, laut means sea and kidol means south,” he further said.

“The ancient Chinese never called this sea the South China Sea. Their name for the sea was “Nan Hai” or the South Sea, he adds.

Reading Duterte’s blurting the Chinese line on the South China name, Ruben Carranza, former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and now director of the Reparative Justice Program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, said “In football, that would be an ‘own goal.’

That’s when a player delivers the ball to the opponent’s goal.



 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong

Time To Take Action To Defend The Philippines

June 13, 2017
/ 12:22 AM June 13, 2017

I meant to write on Rizal and President Duterte, but taking part in the Defend Democracy Summit at the UP School of Economics on Monday brought me face to face with the human toll of the Duterte administration’s irresolution in defending the West Philippine Sea. We must make time to understand the Duterte era from a historical perspective; on Thursday, the Inquirer and the De La Salle University seek to do just that, with a historians’ forum on Philippine independence and the rise of China. But today—today I want to talk about Norma and Ping and the fishermen in Zambales they represent.

Let me belabor the obvious: The Defend Democracy Summit was called out of the sense that democracy in the Philippines today needs to be defended. The organizers defined four areas that needed defending: national sovereignty, human rights, democratic institutions, truth.

Assigned to the first workshop, I had the chance to listen to Prof. Jay Batongbacal, one of the world’s leading experts on the South China Sea disputes. (I added a few words on the Chinese view, from confusion in the 1930s about the location of the Spratlys to allegations in the English-language Chinese press of Philippine aggression in 2016.) In the discussion that followed, the diversity of the perspectives represented was striking: women, businessmen, students, environmentalists, political activists, fisherfolk. I was especially impressed by the intensity of the intervention of the likes of Norma and Ping, who represented fishermen from Zambales whose lives and livelihood are increasingly at risk.


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Not for lack of trying: The fishermen are organized, conduct roundtables in their communities, connect to local and national reporters. But since the start of the Duterte administration, they have found themselves at the mercy of the Chinese—and the authorities do not seem to be of any help. One of the representatives spoke of a recent incident where Chinese fishermen were arrested while poaching in internal waters, and a Chinese Embassy official appeared to tell police officers: “Philippine law does not apply to them (the poachers).” (I will try to get to the bottom of this incident.) He also vigorously rejected media reports that Filipino fishermen can now fish inside Scarborough Shoal.

A group of Zambales fishermen has been conducting meetings and workshops among themselves. In their last workshop, they came up with a list of five demands, in Filipino, that illustrates the immediate effect of the government’s failure to protect their way of life.

The five demands they addressed to the Duterte administration include:

Remove China’s illegal structures and stop certain practices that only favor China.

Allow fishermen to fish and to seek cover in Scarborough Shoal in times of typhoons and calamities.

Provide livelihood for fishermen’s families affected (by Chinese control of Scarborough Shoal since 2012).

Avoid classifying Scarborough as a marine sanctuary because in the end this will only become a fishing area for China.

Stop the illegal quarrying in Zambales used for the reclamation (of Chinese-occupied reefs) and the building of Chinese military structures, in the West Philippine Sea.

Another representative warned: “In five years, maybe in two years, Zambales will be out”—meaning out of fish stock, because of aggressive Chinese fishing.

Yesterday, June 12, was the 90th birthday of an extraordinary teacher who is, amazingly, still teaching. Onofre Pagsanghan, better known to generations of students at the Ateneo de Manila High School, and to thousands of students and parents who have heard his lectures in different schools across the country, as Mr. Pagsi, was—is—a spellbinding speaker. His gift is equal parts heart and craft; a lifetime of integrity and excellence becomes visible through his lectures, even his casual remarks.

What a privilege it was to study under him.

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Seven Chinese vessels detained off West Africa for illegal fishing — While four areas of Africa battle famine — West Africa’s annual losses from illegal and unregulated fishing is about $2.3 billion

May 5, 2017


By Emma Farge | DAKAR

West African countries have detained seven Chinese ships for fishing illegally and the boats’ owners could be subject to millions of dollars in fines, environmental group Greenpeace and government officials said.

Inspectors from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau boarded the ships off their coasts that they found to be violating regulations on catching protected fish and using nets with small holes to facilitate bigger hauls.

The arrests came after a two-month regional patrol on a Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, that carried inspectors from the West African countries in a bid to supplement national efforts often hamstrung by budget and technology constraints.

“This is a surprisingly high amount of arrests, especially considering that the vessels knew about our patrols in advance,” Greenpeace’s Pavel Klinckhamers said on Tuesday.

West Africa has some of the richest waters in the world, but stocks are being depleted as industrial trawlers, some operating illegally, comb the oceans from the seabed to the surface, Greenpeace says.

A study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science estimated West Africa’s annual losses from illegal and unregulated fishing at $2.3 billion.

The Esperanza patrol found 11 vessels in breach of regulations out of 37 stopped, and reported the breaches to local authorities, who towed them back to port.

Some of the ships were released after fines were paid. Others remain under investigation.

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Two other foreign vessels were found to be non-compliant, including a European ship with shark fins aboard, and further investigations are under way, Greenpeace said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China consistently opposes all forms of illegal fishing, and demands that firms operate legally and protect the maritime environment.

“China hopes that the relevant countries can enforce the law in a civilized manner, handle it in accordance with the law and protect the legal rights of the relevant Chinese companies and their employees,” Geng said.

An EU official in Dakar was not immediately available for comment. The EU, which imports around 874 million euros ($954 million) of fish products each year from West Africa, is subject to fishing quotas and pays compensation to local governments. It has also provided funding to crack down on illegal fishing.

Guinea’s fishing minister, Andre Loua, confirmed the detentions and added that it needed more money and boats to effectively control illegal fishing.

Sierra Leone Minister of Information Mohamed Bangura said three Chinese vessels had been detained and fines paid, without giving details. A Guinea-Bissau fishing official said fines were still being negotiated for some of the seized vessels.

(This version of the story has been refiled with Greenpeace correcting number of ships detained to 7)

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Saliou Samb in Conakry, Umaru Fofana in Freetown and Alberto Dabo in Bissau; editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Robin Pomeroy)


A desperate plea for help as 4 African nations near a famine crisis

ABC News


China Wants Fish, So Africa Goes Hungry

Of all the stresses that humans have inflicted on the world’s oceans, including pollution and global warming, industrial fishing ranks high. For years, trawlers capable of scouring the ocean floor, and factory ships trailing driftnets and longlines baited with thousands of hooks, have damaged once-abundant fisheries to the point where, the United Nations says, 90 percent of them are now fully exploited or facing collapse.

The damage is not just to the fish and the ecosystem but also to people who depend on them for food and income. This is particularly true in Africa. In 2008, in two striking articles, The Times reported that mechanized fleets from the European Union, Russia and China had nearly picked clean the oceans off Senegal and other northwest African countries, ruining coastal economies.

It’s still happening, but now, according to a report by The Times’s Andrew Jacobs, China stands alone as the major predator.

With its own waters heavily overfished, and being forced to forage elsewhere to feed its people, the Chinese government commands a fleet of nearly 2,600 vessels, 10 times larger than the United States fleet, all heavily subsidized. As Zhang Hongzhou of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University observes, “For China’s leaders, ensuring a steady supply of aquatic products is not just about good economics but social stability and political legitimacy.”

The result: The Chinese government is basically snatching fish out of the nets of poor fishermen in Africa in order to keep fish on plates in China. A new study published by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science says that most Chinese ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in a week as Senegalese boats catch in a year, costing West African economies some $2 billion.

Further, many Chinese ships don’t hesitate to break the law to meet soaring demand. In 2015, Greenpeace found numerous cases of illegal Chinese fishing in West African waters, including ships that misreported their coordinates or underreported their tonnage: known ploys to fish in prohibited areas. Yet this presents nations like Senegal with a difficult choice, because China is also pumping $60 billion into African development. As Alassane Samba, the former head of Senegal’s Oceanic Research Institute, put it, “It’s hard to say no to China when they are building your roads.”

China isn’t the only player in this drama. The European Union cuts deals with African nations to catch fish to meet global demand it can no longer satisfy with fish from its own waters. American companies, which have seen some remarkable recovery of once-threatened coastal fish stocks after limiting catches, buy fish taken from far-off waters by Chinese and other vessels, much of it processed into pet food. Russia and Japan reap the world’s fish bounty as well.

The good news, such as it is, is that some nations whose waters are at risk are rebelling, and the Chinese may slowly be getting the message. Indonesia has impounded scores of Chinese boats caught poaching in its waters, and Argentina sunk a Chinese vessel after it tried to ram a coast guard ship. There have been clashes between Chinese fishermen and the authorities in South Korea.

China has pledged to cut fuel subsidies to its fleet by 60 percent by 2019. “The era of fishing any way you want, wherever you want, has passed,” says Liu Xinzhong, deputy general director of the Bureau of Fisheries in Beijing. In January, China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced measures aimed at protecting China’s own fisheries, including possible catch limits.

That could eventually take some pressure off African and other international waters. So could the international compact known formally as the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which went into effect last year. The treaty seeks to identify fishing vessels, tracking where they fish and how much fish they are harvesting. The United States ratified the agreement in 2016. As of last week, 44 other countries and the European Union had also signed on.

China, regrettably, has yet to do so. Beijing may be feeling the world’s censure. But it has a very long way to go before it becomes a responsible steward of the oceans’ threatened and not inexhaustible resources.