Posts Tagged ‘code of conduct’

China to work with Asean on sea code

March 28, 2017
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua relayed the message to President Duterte during their meeting in Davao City last Monday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. Kamuning Bakery Cafe/Released

MANILA, Philippines – China is determined to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the crafting of a framework for the code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea dispute.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua relayed the message to President Duterte during their meeting in Davao City last Monday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“His excellency Zhao expressed China’s determination to work with ASEAN member states in finalizing the Code of Conduct Framework on the South China Sea middle of this year,” Abella said in a statement.

Zhao said China is looking forward to the first meeting on bilateral mechanism for the South China Sea row in May.

“Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided,” Abella said.

Hours before the meeting, United States Ambassador Sung Kim called on Duterte to convey his country’s readiness to assist the Philippines in terms of military equipment and training.

“The President said that Philippines-US relations at the bilateral level remain strong and there is readiness to discuss more matters of mutual interest with the US,” he said.

“His Excellency Sung Kim also assured (President Duterte) that the US understands the security concerns of the Philippines and that the US is ready to provide more military equipment, assistance and training,” he added.

Abella said Duterte and Kim agreed that their countries have mutual interests and shared values and that fruitful engagements and discussions are very important “in ensuring that both states are on the same page.”

Duterte and Zhao also discussed the handling of the South China Sea issue, defense cooperation and capacity building, infrastructure projects financing, anti-poverty and the campaign against illegal drugs.

Abella said Zhao assured Duterte that China is ready to implement a cooperation agreement signed by the two countries’ coast guards.

“He (Zhao) looks forward to the Philippine Coast Guard delegation’s visit to China to hammer out actions, activities and new engagements to ensure that South China Sea is a sea of cooperation,” Abella said.

“He is also looking forward to the resumption of bilateral defense cooperation and participation in the One Belt, One Road Summit in Beijing in May 2017,” he added.

Zhao said China is hopeful that the Philippines would soon use its donations for anti-poverty programs and anti-illegal drugs operations.

Duterte also met with Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign affairs and trade minister, and expressed readiness to strengthen bilateral ties between Manila and Budapest.

“The President said that the Philippines is very interested in further strengthening bilateral relations with Hungary in terms of trade and investment and commerce, opening up the Philippine countryside as potential new markets, security cooperation and people-to-people exchanges through scholarship programs,” Abella said.

Szijjárto informed Duterte that Hungary is set to reopen its embassy in the Philippines.

“There will also be constant dialogue and person-to-person exchanges through scholarship programs to Hungary. Citing these areas of cooperation, Szijjártó said he is excited about the upgrade in the Philippines-Hungary cooperation,” Abella said.

Szijjárto said Hungary shares a common vision with the Philippines in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration.

Panatag master plan

Despite an earlier denial of reports that it was building a monitoring station on Panatag Shoal, China actually has a master plan for the full development of the shoal which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, former Parañaque congressman Roilo Golez said yesterday.

Based on the master plan, Beijing is eyeing a 3,000-meter long runway and a harbor on the shoal.

“In our various strategic meetings – that latest was held in Japan – China, it turned out, already has a master plan (for Panatag Shoal),” Golez said in a forum at the Manila Hotel yesterday.  – With Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero

China to host Asean in meeting on South China Sea

March 25, 2017
MAR 24, 2017, 5:00 AM SGT

Aim is for preliminary accord on framework for code of conduct to ease tension over spats

China will host a meeting with Asean in May to come up with a “preliminary agreement” on a framework for a “code of conduct” (COC) meant to ease tensions over disputes in the South China Sea.

“Maybe by that time, we will have made significant progress on the framework,” said Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo at a news briefing on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Thailand on Wednesday.

Mr Manalo said earlier that a draft of the framework – first broached during a senior Asean officials’ meeting in the resort island of Boracay in the Philippines last month – is already being circulated to get Asean’s 10 member states to sign off.

“I’m not saying it will happen, but the hope of everyone is that by the time we get to the meeting in May, the senior officials… may be able to already have at least a preliminary agreement on the framework,” he said.

Mr Manalo declined to discuss specifics about the framework, except to say that it will incorporate elements already agreed upon under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

In that declaration, the two sides agreed to “exercise self-restraint” to prevent actions that could “complicate or escalate disputes”.

At the Boracay meeting, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean was looking at concluding the COC framework by June this year.

A COC has been in the making since 2002, but talks have been slow, as consensus within Asean has been elusive and China insists on conditions that have made it difficult to reach a compromise.

Last year, following a ruling from a tribunal striking down its claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, China sought to have a COC framework ready by the middle of this year.

A COC is expected to lay down legally binding rules and guidelines on avoiding conflicts arising from rival claims by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over all or parts of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) worth of trade passes through each year.

This comes as Mr Duterte reiterated that Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured him that China will not build structures on Scarborough Shoal as a “token of friendship”.

Beijing denied a news report that plans are afoot to erect an “environment monitoring station” on Scarborough Shoal, a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea.

“I was informed that they are not going to build anything on Scarborough,” said Mr Duterte at a news briefing shortly after he arrived in Manila from Bangkok just after midnight yesterday.

“Out of respect for our friendship, they will stop it. They won’t touch it. That’s what China said. Don’t worry. We are friends.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline ‘China to host Asean in meeting on South China Sea’.

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

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

Philippine President Duterte Seeking Allies For At Sea Code of Conduct

March 20, 2017
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Duterte is welcomed by his Myanmar counterpart U Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in the capital Naypyitaw yesterday. Duterte flew to Bangkok, Thailand last night. AP

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.

The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.

The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.

Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.

“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.

But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.

“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.

Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.

“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.

He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.

“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.

“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.

Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.

Defend Panatag

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.

Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.

The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”

But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.

First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.

The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.



Vietnam steps up islands battle with Beijing in South China Sea

March 20, 2017

Hanoi presses for return of strategic archipelago central to regional security dispute

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, water, outdoor and nature

The captain of a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel patrols waters near the Paracel Islands © Bloomberg

MARCH 18, 2017

By: Michael Peel in Da NangFinancial Times (FT)

Dang Cong Ngu ruled a South China Sea archipelago for Vietnam for five years — but never once set foot in the place.

The now-retired 63-year-old governor of the disputed Paracel Islands was a king without a kingdom, railing from onshore exile against China’s capture of a strategic outpost central to the battle for Asia’s seas.

“We must fight to bring the territory back to the motherland,” a still-fiery Mr Dang declared in his old office, a poster proclaiming “The Paracels belong to Vietnam” in the background.

“All Vietnamese, regardless of ethnicity, living inside or outside the country, know that’s the right thing to do.”

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Map showing disputed claims in the South China Sea. Includes locations for Reed Bank and Benham Rise, where Chinese survey ships were seen last year, according to the Philippine government. AFP

The elder statesman’s tough talk underscores why analysts see the islands and other China-Vietnam territorial disputes as potential flashpoints for confrontation that could pit Beijing against not just Hanoi but the new administration in Washington.

Vietnam fought a border war with China as recently as 1979 — and, like other Southeast Asian countries, it is waiting nervously to see how Donald Trump’s government deals with Beijing and its territorial ambitions.

China’s Xi Jinping is set to meet Mr Trump in the US next month. Jonathan London, a Vietnam specialist at the Netherlands’ Leiden University, said: “For Hanoi and the Vietnamese, Beijing’s claims and its efforts to enforce these through aggressive practices remain clear and present threats to national security and sovereign interests.

The great unknown in all of this is how the Trump administration will manage its relations with Hanoi — and in the region more broadly.”

Vietnam’s lost province

Hanoi this week called for Beijing to stop running cruise ship trips to the Paracels, which are known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese and the Xisha islands in Chinese. Those tours are part of a broader effort by Beijing to press its territorial claims to more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea, by building military facilities and artificial islands around the region.

The great unknown in all of this is how the Trump administration will manage its relations with Hanoi — and in the region more broadly Jonathan London, Vietnam specialist

The Paracels are a strategic way station south-east of China’s Hainan Island and its nuclear submarine fleet, in a wider seaway crucial to international trade. Beijing has built harbours, helipads and an air base in the archipelago, according to a report published last month by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China last year deployed anti-aircraft missiles in the Paracels and recently cleared still more land in preparation for possible further construction, according to satellite images, the latest of them released this week.  Communist-ruled Hanoi has made its own military preparations by strengthening ties with a range of international powers, including its former enemy the US.

It has also increased security co-operation with Japan and India, which are both trying to curb Chinese expansion in the region.  Another element of Hanoi’s response is to maintain the bureaucratic fiction of its rule over the Paracels, which South Vietnamese forces lost to China in a 1974 battle while they were sliding to civil war defeat.

The Paracel administration’s headquarters in the Vietnamese coastal town of Da Nang is filled with maps, photos and other historical documents ostensibly in support of its claim.

Le Dinh Re, a former South Vietnamese naval officer, recalled rescuing troops defeated by the Chinese in 1974. “I didn’t think China would still be there after 43 years,” said Mr Le, 73.

“I really hope that one day I can set foot in Hoang Sa.”

The deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the area three years ago triggered anti-Beijing protests. Mobs later ransacked or torched hundreds of foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam’s industrial zones.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water and outdoor

A Chinese marine surveillance vessel sail in the South China Sea. In the background is an oil rig China illegally deployed in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in May 2014.

Nowadays Vietnamese fisherman at a Da Nang boat repair yard complain that they are chased away from the Paracels by Chinese vessels.

Authorities say one large fishing boat was deliberately rammed: the plan is to put it in a new Da Nang museum devoted to the islands and Vietnam’s imagination of them.

“Our fishing boats are wooden and their vessels are steel, so we have no solution to this,” lamented Nguyen Vu, 35. “It’s our traditional fishing area, so we will never give it up.”

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China has rejected both Vietnam’s Paracel sovereignty arguments and a wider ruling made by an international court in July against most of its South China Sea territorial claims.

Beijing argues that the US is the aggressor in Asia because of its warship deployments and military bases around the region.

China says it is committed to a long-planned code of conduct for countries in the region.  Hanoi is now sensitively placed as the Southeast Asian capital most publicly at odds with China’s maritime ambitions, after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte sought to repair his country’s relationship with Beijing.

Vietnam’s belligerence is necessarily tempered by China’s far greater firepower — and by longstanding trade, cultural and political links between the two countries. But those caveats may yet be swept aside in this high-stakes and fast-evolving battle to rule the waves.

Former governor Mr Dang says the Paracels’ administration-in-exile will push ever harder to build diplomatic and legal pressure on China to hand the islands over. “Ours is an extremely difficult and complex mission,” he said.

“We must use all means that we can to regain Vietnamese sovereignty over Hoang Sa.”

Additional reporting by Khac Giang Nguyen

See also:


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Seismic Research Vessel of the type used by China before mining the sea bed. Ships like this one from China have been seen at Benham Rise east of Luzon in Philippine waters


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





Australia urges South China Sea ruling as basis for ‘code of conduct’

March 17, 2017


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should use an international court’s rejection of China’s claims to almost all the South China Sea as basis for a code of conduct, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Thursday.

Australia did not take sides in the South China Sea disputes, Bishop said, but it wanted to see “de-escalation of tension”, reiterating its opposition to China’s militarization of man-made islands in the waters.

China and the 10-member ASEAN have been discussing for almost 15 years a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the South China Sea.

“Given the arbitration has set out some very clear recommendations and findings, that can form the basis of the code of conduct,” Bishop said at a forum.

“There is a discussion to conclude a framework with China this year. I would urge the ASEAN and the Philippines’ leadership to go further and conclude a code of conduct as soon as possible.”

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.

Tensions reached a flashpoint after the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China in The Hague and as China started militarizing artificial islands it built up on reefs in the South China Sea.

The tribunal ruled last year in Manila’s favor, but the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has seen a dramatic U-turn in his country’s approach.

Duterte has said repeatedly he wants to avoid confrontation with China and sees no need to press it to abide by the ruling.

Bishop said ASEAN should “recognize the force that it has when it speaks with one voice and it should not take a backward step if it believes that the positions it is putting are in its interest and not be cowed to backing down because of any fears of what might occur”.

ASEAN’s statements of concern often avoid mentioning China by name. Much is at stake from upsetting China, as ASEAN members, to varying extents, need its trade, investment and tourists.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Nick Macfie)



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


Center for Strategic and International Studies: What is The Position of the Philippines on the South China Sea?

March 3, 2017

By  – Reporter / @jiandradeINQ

/ 05:49 PM March 03, 2017

Senior officials of a Washington-based think tank group stressed the importance of asserting the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea, expressing skepticism over a code of conduct being pursued by member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

In a press conference on Thursday’s closing reception of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) international conference “US-Asean Relations: Charting the next 40 Years,” CSIS Southeast Asia program senior adviser Ernest Bower pointed out the popular clamor for the Philippines to assert its claim over the South China Sea using the ruling of the international court in the Hague.

“Tthere’s always war and peace. If I am not ready for war then peace is the only thing,” President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua. PPD/King Rodriguez

READ: Philippines wins arbitration case vs. China over South China Sea

“I think if President (Rodrigo) Duterte is reading the polls, he would think carefully about the July 12 decision because if you look at what Filipino people think they are very strong in the arbitration case in the South China Sea,” Bower said, pointing out that 82 percent of Filipinos want to see the arbitration case “followed up and followed through on.”

READ: 8 in 10 Filipinos want PH to assert rights in South China Sea—Pulse Asia

“It’s what Filipinos want to do and I think the Philippines showed a lot of courage. It had nothing to do with Philippine domestic politics, it had to do with the Philippines’ sovereignty and the rest of Asia and I think the world admired the Philippines’ courage and leadership to take that case and get the decision and I believe President Duterte would be wise to follow through on it,” Bower said.

According to Bower, the Philippines’ failure to invoke the arbitral ruling could endanger its security and sovereignty.

“I think the reason the Philippines took the arbitral case to the Hague is because they wanted a decision based on rule of law and they got a decision based on international rule of law about what the court thought about the South China Sea issue,” he pointed out.

He stressed: “To squander that opportunity to use such a high-level international legal standard would seem to put the country’s national security and its sovereignty at risk. Rolling the dice. I don’t think that’s the type of leader President Duterte is… He seems to be a very good reader of Philippine national opinion and I think, if I was him, I would heed my people on this question.”

Asked on the importance of establishing a code of conduct in the South China Sea, CSIS senior adviser and Southeast Asia program deputy director Murray Hiebert said, “The big question is if it is at all possible to do it. They (Asean and China) have been working on it for years,” adding that Asean would be better off focusing on other concerns.

“I think to put all the emphasis on the code of conduct is spinning their wheels. We took a long time to negotiate the declaration of conduct and then it took 10 years to put in some non-binding principles. So I’m not sure that’s the most effective way to negotiate to get what Asean wants out of China,” he explained.

However, Bower said that if China would be willing to add legally binding language in and relate it with the arbitral ruling, a code of conduct “would be a very good thing for China and for Southeast Asia.”

He pointed out, “I think China really has an opportunity right now to grab some moral high ground and actually make legal commitments to its neighbors in the code of conduct. So it’s a good opportunity to try and raise the standard for a strong, legally binding code of conduct.”

Amy Searight, CSIS senior adviser and Southeast Asia program director, said that while the code of conduct will not affect territorial rights in the South China Sea “if it’s binding and if it really has the right provisions in it, it could be marginally helpful for Asean.”

Bower pointed out: “Things we’re watching for are: would China declare an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) over the South China Sea? Will the Chinese go further in militarizing the islands?  If Asean can get some commitments on those things in the code of conduct to not do that, that would be bountifully significant or maybe worth looking at.”

The two-day CSIS international conference held on March 1 and 2 brought together 40 academics, think tank experts and government officials around Southeast Asia to discuss the future after 40 years of US-Asean relations.

CSIS is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization providing strategic insights and policy solutions that help guide US decision-makers. RAM

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 (Includes commentary by former President of Columbia Gaviria)

Police reports showed 10 alleged drug personalities were shot to death in Metro Manila and two more in Bulacan – all by unidentified men on motorcycles – in what appeared to be targeted hits. STAR/Joven Cagande

 (President Trump says U.S. will respect “One China” policy.)

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

South China Sea: Philippine President Not Interested in Evidence of Chinese Missiles

February 27, 2017


Sino missile sites don’t alarm Duterte!

 South China Sea: Philippine President Not Interested in Evidence of Chinese Missiles

WHY the deafening silence of President Rodrigo Duterte over disclosures of updated satellite images showing Chinese missile sites in advanced stages of completion on several areas that it has militarized in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone?

The Commander-in-Chief should say something, anything, about new photographs of military-type structures built on such sites as Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Mischief (Panganiban) and Subi (Zamora) Reefs in the Spratly Group. There are other militarized Chinese outposts in Philippine waters.

The Spratly islands, some of them occupied or claimed by the Philippines, are just 100 kilometers off Palawan. That China has built structures on them to hide or support missile sites should at least prod the President to ask his Chinese friends what they are up to.

Etched in the public mind is the campaign caricature drawn by Duterte himself of his braving the waves on a jetski, flag in hand, on his way to planting the Philippine banner in the disputed islands.

That resolve of his seems to have been dissolved by cunning Chinese leaders who regaled the visitor from Davao with promises of millions of dollars in investments, infrastructure, easy loans, et cetera, to help him keep his campaign promises of a better life for Filipinos.

Duterte actually has an ace, but chose not to play it. He set aside the favorable ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on a complaint filed by Manila questioning the expansive claim of Beijing over much of the South China Sea and Philippine maritime areas.

While the Chinese keep Duterte hoping and waiting for the delivery of the promised aid, they accelerate their building of artificial islands on reefs and protrusions in Philippine waters – and proceed to put up surface-to-air missile sites on them.

We do not expect Duterte to rant and rage on this issue – he may not be able to muster the courage for that kind of performance despite his tough front. But, as we said, he should at least grunt or mutter something.

Duterte held back by his China liaison?

THE CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative based in Washington, DC, released satellite images days ago showing eight buildings being constructed by China on several isles in the Spratlys.

Alarm was expressed in Manila and elsewhere, but not in Malacañang. US Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), for one, condemned China’s buildup in disputed areas. Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said it is high time the arbitral ruling at The Hague was invoked.

Del Rosario said the Philippines’ hosting and chairing the coming 50th anniversary summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is an opportune time to bring up the PCA ruling to fast-forward an ASEAN consensus on resolving territorial disputes.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. may be able to say something to assert Philippine interests in the dispute with China as soon as he and the Commission on Appointments are able to decide if he is a Filipino, an American, or whatever.

The AMTI, meanwhile, said the deployment of weapon systems to China’s three largest outposts in the Spratlys boosts its defense capabilities within the so-called “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea.

The think tank said that China appears to have begun building the structures between late September and early November last year. It said they could be used for HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles that Beijing had deployed to Woody Island in the Paracels.

The images presented showed buildings measuring about 66 feet long and 33 feet wide – said to be capable of hiding “transporter-erector-launcher vehicles carrying missiles” ready to fire from inside without being exposed prematurely.

Abandon Filipino town of Kalayaan?

THE SEVEN islands and three reefs in the Spratlys that the Philippines occupies or controls are collectively called the Kalayaan Group. They lie just 100 kilometers away from Palawan, well within the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the country.

In May 1956, Filipino adventurer Tomas Cloma, then operator of a fishing firm and director of the Philippine Maritime Institute, discovered the islands together with his brothers and a crew. He founded on the biggest island a new town he called Kalayaan, which until now is a thriving community where the Philippine flag flies.

The Philippine government incorporated Kalayaan into Palawan in April 1972 and sent troops to the Spratlys for the first time in 1968. On June 11, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos formally annexed the Kalayaan Group by virtue of Presidential Decree No.1596.

Commenting on the roiling of regional waters, Del Rosario said the Philippines must resolutely adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea upon which was based the ruling that junked as illegal China’s “nine-dash line” arbitrary claim on the South China Sea.

On the coming ASEAN summit in Manila, Del Rosario said: “Our proposed agenda should have included an open discussion on the outcome of the arbitral tribunal, which effectively addresses a lawful approach to ASEAN’s most crucial security concern in the region.”

He warned that developing a Code of Conduct framework would be “an exercise in futility if the arbitral tribunal outcome is not factored in and not recognized as being a most important component of the framework.”

“The Philippines should assert effective leadership as ASEAN chair,” Del Rosario said. “We have an opportunity which we should not forgo. By seizing it, we can be confident that we will not be short-changing the many generations to come, who should be benefiting from our proactive leadership.”

* * *

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 (Includes commentary by former President of Columbia Gaviria)

Police reports showed 10 alleged drug personalities were shot to death in Metro Manila and two more in Bulacan – all by unidentified men on motorcycles – in what appeared to be targeted hits. STAR/Joven Cagande

 (President Trump says U.S. will respect “One China” policy.)

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

ASEAN and China Plan At Sea Code of Conduct by June

February 25, 2017

By Raul Dancel
The Straits Times

Asean and China are hoping to conclude by June a framework on a legally binding code of conduct (COC) meant to prevent conflicts in the South China Sea. As the term implies, it will just be a “framework”. It will most likely express general principles that will govern the crafting of the code itself, such as the need for self-restraint.

However, it marks real progress in an effort that has already dragged on for 14 years. What makes it relevant now is that the South China Sea row between Washington and Beijing is flaring up anew, with both sides exchanging pointed rhetoric over weapons systems that China placed recently on islands it built in the vital waterway.

The COC has been in the works since 2002, but talks have been slow as consensus within Asean, and between Asean and China, has been elusive.

But after an international tribunal struck down many of its claims over the South China Sea last year, China sought to fast-track talks on a COC, and for a framework to be agreed on by the middle of this year.

That there is a deadline, and all parties are willing to sign a document that will commit them to concluding a legally binding COC, is reason enough to be positive that a framework will emerge by June.

Singapore is playing a central role in this effort. As Asean-China coordinator, it has to get all 10 Asean member states and China to sign off on the code.

This will not be a walk in the park but everyone is working to make it happen, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on the sidelines of a meeting of Asean foreign ministers on Tuesday.

“This is not just a simple matter of negotiating the form of words… The fact that it has taken so long, and we are still in this situation, should give us a sense of reality of the big task ahead.”

Even so, a framework is just a lead-in to the real challenge ahead: Putting meat on a legally binding COC. In that, Asean and China remain poles apart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017

 (President Trump says U.S. will respect “One China” policy.)

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

ASEAN unsettled by China weapon systems, tension in South China Sea

February 22, 2017

Southeast Asian countries see China’s installation of weapons systems in the South China Sea as “very unsettling” and have urged dialogue to stop an escalation of “recent developments”, the Philippines said on Tuesday.

The region’s foreign ministers were unanimous in their concern over China’s militarization of its artificial islands, but were confident a framework for a code of maritime conduct could be agreed with Beijing by June, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said.

Yasay did not say what developments provoked the concern, but said the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) hoped China and the United States would ensure peace and stability.

He said demilitarisation would be a key component of any ASEAN-China code of conduct, but it was too soon to say whether Beijing’s dismantling of its weapons installations would be a prerequisite.

“The ASEAN members have been unanimous in their expression of concern about what they see as a militarization of the region,” Yasay told reporters after a ministers’ retreat on the Philippine island of Boracay.

Referring to China’s manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago, Yasay said ASEAN countries had “noticed, very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this.”

With the Philippines chairing the bloc this year, Yasay’s comments signal a rare, firm position by a grouping that often struggles to achieve consensus, due to its contrasting opinions on how to respond to China’s assertiveness.

ASEAN’s statements of concern often avoid mentioning China by name. Much is at stake from upsetting China, as ASEAN members, to varying extents, are under its influence and need its trade, investment and tourists.


Regional geopolitics has become more uncertain since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, particularly over his administration’s role in a region strongly courted by Washington during the “pivot” of predecessor Barack Obama.

Friction between the United States and China over trade and territory under Trump has fueled worry that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.

China claims most of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China on Friday completed war games with an aircraft carrier that unnerved neighbors. A day later the U.S. navy said its aircraft carrier strike group had started routine patrols in the South China Sea, a step China had warned against.

Yasay said ASEAN nations recognized policies under Trump were still evolving, but hoped they could be unveiled within a few months to provide a “more concrete and clearer picture”, especially regarding China.

“We do not know the complete picture of what this foreign policy might be, insofar as its relationship with China is concerned. We’re, however, hopeful that the policy that would come out will be positive.”

Asked if China was committed to a set of rules on the South China Sea, he said Beijing had shown it was keen.

But all parties should ensure that the code, which has made little progress since the idea was agreed in 2002, needed to be legally “binding and enforceable”, Yasay added.

(Additional reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)