Posts Tagged ‘Duterte’

Philippines: Senate ethics body junks complaints vs Senator De Lima

February 20, 2018
By: – Reporter / @MAgerINQ
 / 10:20 AM February 20, 2018
Image may contain: 1 person, standing


For lack of jurisdiction, the Senate committee on ethics has rejected the three ethics cases filed against detained Senator Leila de Lima.

The committee headed by Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III unanimously approved the motion of Senate Minority Leader Fraklin Drilon to dismiss the cases filed by leaders of the House of Representatives and two charges initiated by presidential spokesman Harry Roque and lawyer Abelardo de Jesus.

The complaints against de Lima stemmed from her alleged advice to former aide and partner Ronnie Dayan to refrain from attending the House probe into her alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison when she was still Justice Secretary.

In moving for the dismissal of the cases, Drilon cited the pending case in courts also lodged against de Lima and the committee’s lack of jurisdiction over the alleged violations she had committed.

Drilon’s motion was seconded by Senator Panfilo Lacson, saying de Lima did not violate any Senate rule or was not performing her duty as a senator when she supposedly gave the advice to Dayan.

“She has not violated any Senate rule nor it is related to an official act as a senator so on that note, if there’s a motion I will support to outrightly dismiss the case against de Lima as filed by the counterparts in the House,” Lacson said.

Senator Gringo Honasan also backed the dismissal of the charges against de Lima “in the spirit of humanity.”

“What else can we do to Senator De Lima…?” Honasan asked.

“So in the spirit of humanity, maybe this might possibly set a trend prospectively that will allow naman the chamber to assert its independence as the last bastion of a pluralistic democracy and start protecting its members against abuse of discretion or authority,” he added.

At one point, Sotto suggested to just “archive” and not dismiss the case, citing the possibility that the criminal case against de Lima might prosper.

In the end, the committee agreed with Drilon to dismiss the charges without prejudice to refiling them or to filing of a new complaint against de Lima. /cbb

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‘Marawi attackers set sights on 2nd city’

February 20, 2018


Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.  Credit KJ Rosales

(Associated Press) – February 21, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Islamic State (IS) group-linked militants planned but failed to attack another southern Philippine city shortly after troops crushed their siege of Marawi last year, the leader of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said yesterday.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.

Murad said his group relayed intelligence about the planned attacks on the two cities, which are bustling commercial hubs, to government forces through ceasefire channels established during years of peace talks. He made the comments at a forum with foreign news correspondents, stressing how his group has helped battle terrorism.

President Duterte and military officials have also said that remnants of the radical groups behind the five-month siege that devastated Marawi were hunting for new recruits and plotting new attacks.

Duterte mentioned the threats in a speech late Monday in which he criticized Canada for imposing restrictions on the use of combat helicopters the Philippines has sought to buy. He has ordered the military to cancel the purchase.

“They are about to retake another city in the Philippines or to take another geographical unit but I couldn’t use the helicopters,” Duterte said, explaining that the Bell helicopters could not be employed in combat assaults.

Duterte has not elaborated on the nature of post-Marawi attack threats.

Murad’s group, which the military estimates has about 10,000 fighters scattered mostly in the marshy south, hopes Congress will pass legislation this year implementing a 2014 autonomy pact with the government.

He said the prospects appear bright, but added that the rebels are aware that the government failed to enforce peace pacts in the past, prompting disgruntled rebels to form breakaway groups.

The rebel leader warned that restive young Muslims in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, may be drawn to extremism if the peace efforts fail.

As IS group militants lose bases in the Middle East, “we will increasingly find them in our midst as they seek new strategic grounds where the hold of government is weak such as in Mindanao,” Murad said.

Last year, Murad said his group lost 24 fighters who were defending rural communities from breakaway militants who have aligned with the IS. “We know we cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

The new Muslim autonomous zone, which generally covers five poor provinces, is to replace an existing one that is seen as a dismal failure. The new plan grants much more autonomy, power and guaranteed resources to the region.

The rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao in an insurrection that has killed about 150,000 combatants and civilians. The United States and other Western governments have backed the autonomy deal, partly to prevent the insurgency from breeding extremists.



Philippines: Islamic group warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

February 20, 2018

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), gestures as he speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
MANILA: If the Philippines Congress does not pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), extremism could rise in Mindanao, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned on Tuesday. The BBL follows the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.
Foreign fighters continue to arrive in Mindanao, said MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim.
“They’re coming in from the porous borders in the south (Mindanao), from Malaysia, Indonesia,” he added.
“And it’s not only Malaysians and Indonesians… There are some Middle Eastern people coming in.”
The MILF received information that a Canadian of Arab origin, not older than 25, entered recently and went to Patikul in Sulu to join the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ebrahim said.
“So this challenge with extremism is really very high, and… we really need to cooperate, everybody, in order to counter extremism,” he added.
Daesh continues to be a threat to the Philippines because it is being displaced in the Middle East, he said.
“We’re all aware of what happened in the Middle East. I think nobody wants it to happen here,” he added.
The chances of another Marawi siege cannot be ruled out because extremists “can still partner with many other small groups, like Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF),” Ebrahim said.
“We’ve seen the destruction in Marawi. In more than 40 years of conflict in Mindanao, this never happened,” he added.
“There has been no city or community that was turned into rubble completely. And this happened… when we’re already in the final stage of the peace process.”
While the MILF is doing its part to prevent terrorists from gaining ground on the island, “the best and most effective counter to them is when the peace process will succeed,” he said.
“We can’t decisively win the war against extremism if we can’t win the peace in the halls of Congress.”
The assistant secretary for peace and security, Dickson Hermoso, told Arab News that the BBL “will be passed based on the reaction of the majority of the people on the ground.”
He added: “They want the BBL, based on consultations by the Senate and congressional committees. There’s overwhelming support from the Bangsamoro people.”
The Senate plans to pass the bill by March 22, before it goes on recess, Hermoso said, expressing hope that it will be signed into law by the president before the end of next month.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said he expects the BBL to be passed soon, but warned that if not, another Marawi siege is possible.
The president may call for a special session of Congress just to see the bill passed, Casiple added.

Philippine President Duterte banned a Rappler reporter from Malacañang in what could be an illegal order

February 20, 2018


(UPDATED) President Rodrigo Duterte orders the head of Malacañang’s Internal House Affairs Office to ensure that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Pia Ranada cannot enter the Palace

Published 2:22 PM, February 20, 2018
Updated 6:12 PM, February 20, 2018

NO TO RAPPLER. President Rodrigo Duterte expressly orders for Rappler's Pia Ranada to be prohibited from entering Malacañang. Malacañang file photo

NO TO RAPPLER. President Rodrigo Duterte expressly orders for Rappler’s Pia Ranada to be prohibited from entering Malacañang. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Malacañang official said it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who ordered that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Pia Ranada be barred from entering Malacañang Palace.

Jhopee Avanceña, head of Malacañang’s Internal House Affairs Office (IHAO), told Ranada in a text message on Tuesday, February 20, “I informed the PSG (Presidential Security Group) not to allow you to enter the Palace since I was instructed last night by the President.”

She also later on told PTV News that Duterte also wants Rappler CEO Maria Ressa to be barred from enterting the Palace.

Asked how long the President wants Ranada prohibited from entering Malacañang, Avanceña told Ranada: “He said you are not allowed inside. That’s it. Not only today.”

Duterte apparently gave the order after watching the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates deal, where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go accused Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of reporting “fake news” on the Navy project. (READ: Rappler statement on Bong Go’s fake news accusation)

Avanceña said she was given the instructions at midnight.

Asked why Duterte gave such an order, Go said, “‘Di ko na ma-answer ‘yan (I can no longer answer that).”

The PSG stopped Ranada from entering the New Executive Building (NEB) in the Malacañang compound on Tuesday morning.

After calls were made, the PSG informed Ranada that she could enter NEB but not the Palace itself. No reasons were given for this.

Apparently, the President did not relay his order to key Palace officials, including Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who said he was not aware of the order or who issued it, when asked about the incident during his briefing on Tuesday.

Roque said he even had to clarify the matter with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who told him that Rappler can cover Malacañang events pending the final court decision on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order revoking Rappler’s business license.

This is the first known incident after the Marcos regime where a Philippine president specifically banned a journalist, more so a member of the Malacañang Press Corps, from entering Malacañang for official coverage.

During his presidency, Joseph Estrada briefly banned Inquirer reporters from covering his impromptu chats with the media in his official residence, the Premier Guest House, but did not keep them from entering Malacañang premises for other official events. At the time, Estrada accused the Inquirer of unfair reporting on his presidency.

In Davao City, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the decision to bar Ranada from Palace coverage should not be seen as a curtailment of press freesom.

“Again, the issue with Rappler is its requirements with SEC, and the case been lodged, if I’m not mistaken, with the CA or the Supreme Court,” Andanar told reporters who asked about the President’s directive. – Pia Ranada, with a report from Mick Basa /

South China Sea: Philippines President Duterte says China’s military facilities intended for U.S. — Does China Have the Philippines by the throat or bank account?

February 20, 2018


In this July 2013 photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 88) is underway in the Philippine Sea. Lassen recently sailed near China’s artificial island on Subi Reef in the disputed sea, US defense officials said on Tuesday.

US Navy/Declan Barnes/Released


Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – February 20, 2018 – 10:59am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed China’s construction of military outposts in the South China Sea, saying that it is not intended for the Philippines.

Despite Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, the president stressed that the disputed area is part of the country’s territory.

“It’s not intended for us. The contending ideological powers of the world or the geopolitics has greatly changed. It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think would destroy them and that is America,” Duterte said in a speech before the Chinese business club.

RELATED: Philippines insists on dialogue with China amid completed airbase in South China Sea

Duterte, who has been pursuing closer ties with Beijing, also criticized the past administration for not addressing China’s massive land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What were they doing during their time? Why did they not start to build things there, structures that China is doing now?” Duterte said.

In 2014, the Philippines, under the Aquino administration, submitted a case to the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal against China over competing South China Sea claims.

A year after the Philippines filed the arbitration, it was reported that China is transforming Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island. Beijing then said that they are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue, fishery services and other administrative services for China and neighboring countries.


Image may contain: sky, airplane and outdoor

Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

In July 2016, the UN-backed tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment under the Convention on the Law of the Sea upon constructing artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

By the end of 2017, China has nearly completed installing military facilities in its “big three” islands in the Spratlys – Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross reefs.

A report from US-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative shows that China is likely using Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef as its intelligence hub in the Spratlys.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

“None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area,” the report read.



We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)



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No automatic alt text available.

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.

Another Marawi possible, Philippine rebel chief warns

February 20, 2018


© AFP / by Cecil MORELLA | Murad warns that another Marawi is possible
MANILA (AFP) – The chief of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group warned Tuesday that jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group, flush with looted guns and cash, could seize another Filipino city after Marawi last year.Murad Ebrahim has billed his Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has made peace with the government, as a rival to IS for the hearts and minds of angry young Muslims in the impoverished south of the mainly Catholic nation.

Murad said the MILF was battling pro-IS groups for influence in schools as the jihadists worked to infiltrate madrasas (Islamic religious schools) and secular universities.

At the same time IS gunmen were making their way into the southern Philippines from Malaysia and Indonesia, he added, but gave no estimates.

A five-month siege flattened the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao, the Philippines’ main Islamic centre, and claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Murad told reporters conditions on the ground were still ripe for another Marawi-style siege.

“This ISIS group continues to penetrate us because they are being displaced in the Middle East and they want to have another place,” Murad said, using an another name for IS.

“The chances of having another Marawi cannot be overruled.”

The Marawi attackers found and looted stockpiles of munitions, cash and jewellery from homes — some owned by MILF members — before the city was retaken by US-backed Filipino troops in October, he said.

“When they (MILF members) fled from Marawi they (could) not bring their vaults. That is where the ISIS was also able to get so much money and now they’re using it for recruitment,” he added.

“It’s very sad. In our country some people say buying weapons and ammunition is just like buying fish in the market.”

The combination of weak central government authority, the presence of rebel groups and long-running blood feuds means Mindanao is awash with weapons, he added.

Manila signed a peace deal with the 10,000-member MILF in 2014 after decades of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao for independence or self-rule that had claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Murad urged President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to speed up the passage of a Muslim self-rule law to flesh out the peace accord, warning pro-IS militants were recruiting for a new attack.

“If the (self-rule law) will not be passed now I think it will develop a situation where these extremist groups can recruit more adherents, because it will prove their theory that there is no hope in the peace process,” he said.

“Since they have the capability also to supply money and then they also have the ability to make explosives, bombs, they can just use these young recruits to work out their plan.”

by Cecil MORELLA

Philippine President: Why Not Make The Philippines a Province of China?

February 19, 2018


The President says negotiations for joint exploration with China are underway. He suggests a sharing scheme of two-thirds for the Philippines and one-third for China.

By Pia Renata
Updated 9:35 PM, February 19, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person

NOT A TARGET. President Rodrigo Duterte says China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea targets the United States and not the Philippines. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte jokingly suggested to China that it make the Philippines part of its territory, as a province.

“Kung gusto ‘nyo, gawin ‘nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian (If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian),” said Duterte on Monday, February 19, during the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club.

“Province of Philippines, Republic of China,” he added, to applause from his audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

Duterte made the joke after saying Chinese President Xi Jinping himself promised not to build any structures on Scarborough Shoal.

“They assured us they will not build anything there in Scarborough Shoal,” said Duterte.

“Maniwala kayo kasi ‘yan ang commitment sa akin ni China. Si Xi Jinping mismo nagsabi and he’s a man of honor.” (Believe it because that is China’s commitment to me. Xi Jinping himself said it and he’s a man of honor.)

Duterte added that negotiations for joint exploration between China and the Philippines are underway, even mentioning the possible sharing scheme between the two nations.

“Kasi ‘yung oil, joint (exploration) naman, ‘yung pinakamarami. Two-thirds sa amin, one-third sa inyo,” said the President. (Because the oil, it’s joint exploration, we will have the biggest share. Two-thirds will be ours, one-third yours.)

Military bases

Duterte also admitted in his speech that China is building “military bases” in the West Philippine Sea but said it would be silly for anyone to think China will use such military assets against the Philippines.

“Military bases, I must admit it, but is it intended for us? You must be joking. It’s not intended for us,” he said. (READ: Roque: One day, we’ll thank China for artificial islands)

China is building up its defense capability against just the United States, according to Duterte.

“It’s really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America, hindi tayo kasali diyan (we aren’t part of that),” said the President.

“There’s negotiations for joint exploration. Can you beat that? Hayaan mo missile-missile diyan, hindi para sa atin ‘yan (Just ignore the missiles there, it’s not intended for us),” he added.

Duterte also downplayed China’s successful bid to name 5 undersea features in Philippine Rise (Benham Rise). But he maintained that if the continental shelf is found to be resource-rich, the Philippines would claim the resources, such as oil. (READ: No bad faith on part of China in naming PH Rise features – Roque)

“If they say there is a lot of oil there, fine…Remember, that is ours. The whole of the [South] China Sea, you have already claimed it…but this Philippine Rise is ours,” said Duterte.

He repeated that any future scientific research conducted by a foreign entity in Philippine Rise will have to be cleared by the military first. (READ: PH can ban China in Benham, but not other nations – Carpio)

“If the military says it’s good, it can be done, I’ll give you the permit,” said Duterte. –



In front of Chinese envoy, Duterte makes bold stand on sea row

By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 08:39 PM February 19, 2018

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

“That is ours.”

President Rodrigo Duterte asserted on Monday the sovereign rights of the Philippines in parts of the disputed South China Sea in front of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and Chinese businessmen.

“Itong claim sa South China Sea, talagang atin ‘yan. In so far as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, I am ready to put my presidency, my career as president, my life and all [on the line], atin ‘yan. I stated it in black and blue that it has been the claim of the Philippines na atin ‘yan,” he said, while Zhao was listening.

But the President insisted that the Philippines could only be “diplomatic” in dealing with the country’s maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Duterte said the Philippines would continue to insist its claim in the disputed waterway but reiterated that Manila could not go to war with Beijing.

“We can only be talking on friendly terms and civilized terms,” Duterte said in a speech at the Manila Hotel.

“I will never go to a battle which I can never win. How can I win?” he added, saying he would not commit the lives of Filipinos going to war against a powerful neighbor. “We cannot do that today. It is unrealistic.”

China has a sweeping claim in the South China Sea, transforming at least seven disputed reefs into island fortresses.

Duterte has been slammed by critics for his soft-stance on China but the President turned the table and blamed the previous administration.

“The critics say that I am not doing enough. What were they doing their time?” he said.

“Wala tayong ginawa,” he added, referring to the time when China was just starting building military installations in the disputed sea during the previous administration.

He said China was willing to talk over the maritime row, citing the ongoing bilateral consultative meetings Manila and Beijing had conducted.

“Why will I fight? China is willing to talk,” he said.

Duterte said the military installations in the disputed islands were not intended for the Philippines but for the United States. had earlier reported that China was almost done transforming artificial islands into military bases.

“It is really intended against those who the Chinese think will destroy them. And it is America,” he said.

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Duterte admin ‘not given up too much, too early, too soon’ to China – Roque

By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 03:08 PM February 19, 2018

Malacañang refuted on Monday the assertions of a maritime expert that the Philippines was giving “too much, too early, too soon” in dealing with China.

“The Duterte administration has certainly not given up too much, too early, too soon in its relation with China nor China has gained more than us,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Roque was referring to the statement of lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, who said he was wary about Manila “trading away too much, too early and too soon” in seeking better ties with Beijing.

READ: PH giving China ‘too much, too early, too soon’, says UP prof

In a press conference last Saturday, Batongbacal also said: “China is gaining too much from our softness on these issues.”

But Roque rejected such claims.

“On the contrary, we have upheld our national interest and produced tangible benefits for our people in pursuing friendly and mutually-beneficial ties with China,” the Palace official said.

“Our people have been able to resume their right to fish in Scarborough and there is peace in the region. This is over and above the increased arrivals of Chinese tourists, as well as investments from mainland China,” he added.

Roque, an international law expert, said that the Philippine government would continue to defend the country’s sovereign rights in the disputed South China Sea while patching-up Manila’s strained relations with Beijing.

“We have said in a numerous occasions that we will continue to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights when we discussed our territorial and maritime disputes with China while maximizing the benefits

of our people by promoting economic and other relations with China in which they are no contentious issues between us,” he said.China has refused to recognize the United Nations (UN) arbitral ruling in July 2012, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims over almost all of the South China Sea.   /kga

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We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)



No automatic alt text available.


No automatic alt text available.

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.

South China Sea: US Navy officer says won’t be bullied by China in disputed waters

February 18, 2018


US Navy

A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us.” 

One of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers arrived in Manila on Friday for a routine port visit during its Western Pacific deployment.

More than 5,500 sailors from aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy will participate in community service projects while in Manila.

Philippine Star


US Navy in South China Sea: ‘We’re Here’ No Matter China’s Military Buildup

  • Associated Press
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
U.S. forces are undeterred by China’s military buildup on man-made islands in the South China Sea and will continue patrolling the strategic, disputed waters wherever “international law allows us,” said a Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F-18 fighter jets.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and in the air in the region for 70 years to promote security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said Saturday on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines.

When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the overlapping territorial claims involving China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions, including the construction of seven man-made islands equipped with troops, hangars, radar and missile stations and three long runways.

China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and has challenged the U.S. naval supremacy in the western Pacific.

“We’re committed,” Hawkins told reporters. “We’re here.”

With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.
With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.

Trump strategy

The Trump administration has outlined a new security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence.

Washington stakes no claims in the disputes but has declared that their peaceful resolution and the maintenance of freedom of navigation are in its national interest. U.S. officials have said American warships will continue sailing close to Chinese-occupied features without prior notice, placing Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests.

In January, China accused the U.S. of trespassing when the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the Chinese-guarded Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing wrestled from the Philippines in 2012, despite its proximity to the main northern island of Luzon. After voicing a strong protest, China said it would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty.

The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson patrolled the sea before its Manila visit but did not conduct a freedom of navigation operation, Hawkins said.

“That’s not to say that we won’t or we can’t, but we have not, up to this point,” he said.

U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.
U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.

Stop in Vietnam?

There are reports that the Carl Vinson will also make a port call in Danang in Vietnam, another critical rival of China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, as the first American aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Hawkins declined to provide details of future trips.

China has also opposed the Philippine military’s deployment of a Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air patrol plane in late January to Scarborough, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. Chinese officials have relayed their objection to their Philippine counterparts, the official said.

China and Japan have their own territorial rifts in the East China Sea.

There was no immediate comment from Philippine military officials about China’s opposition to the surveillance flights at Scarborough.

Image may contain: sky, airplane and outdoor

Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

Gunboat diplomacy

U.S. and Chinese officials have said they have no intention of going to war in the disputed sea, but their governments have projected their firepower and clout in a delicate play of gunboat diplomacy and deterrence.

“We’re prepared to conduct a spectrum of operations, whether that’s providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief in the time of an emergency, or whether we have to conduct operations that require us to send strike fighters ashore,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to use that spectrum, but we’re ready to, in case we need to.”

The U.S. Navy invited journalists Saturday on board the 35-year-old Carl Vinson, which was packed with 72 aircraft, including F-18 Hornets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to back down from what he said was a Philippine foreign policy that was steeply oriented toward the U.S., but has allowed considerable engagements with his country’s treaty ally to continue while reviving once-frosty ties with China in a bid to bolster trade and gain infrastructure funds.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, where a bulk of the trade and oil that fuel Asia’s bullish economies passes through.


白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

Philippine lawyer says he wants ‘death squad president’ in court

February 18, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine attorney Jude Sabio says he hasn’t been home for a year, steers clear of public events and is forever looking over his shoulder after accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes

against humanity.

 Image result for Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio poses for a picture in Metro Manila, Philippines February 10, 2018.

Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio poses for a picture in Metro Manila, Philippines February 10, 2018. Picture taken February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Sabio, a stocky 51 year-old, says he lives in constant fear of reprisals after filing a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the wildly popular Duterte, whose administration Filipinos rate as the best performing since opinion polls started in the 1980s.

A little-known lawyer until he filed the complaint last April, Sabio argues that the deaths of thousands of Filipinos in a brutal war on drugs is Duterte’s method of controlling crime, and that he used the tactic effectively during his 22 years as the mayor of Davao City in the south of the country.

Duterte has repeatedly denied ordering extra-judicial killings while mayor or president and reiterated this month that he would “gladly” go before the ICC. Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had earlier said her office had started a preliminary examination into whether any crimes against humanity had been committed and if ICC had jurisdiction.

The step is the first in a process that could take years to complete, if at all. Since it was set up in 2002, the ICC has received more than 12,000 complaints or communications, just nine of which have gone to trial.

Sabio’s move is unpopular in a country where, despite the bloodshed, Duterte enjoys a cult-like status and has a loyal online following which hounds and harasses his opponents.

The Social Weather Station’s (SWS) latest quarterly poll shows Duterte’s trust rating bounced back to “excellent” in December from “very high” three months before. Another SWS poll gave his government the best rating so far for a Philippine administration

“When I went to The Hague I received so many threats,” Sabio told Reuters. “The (latest) announcement from the ICC, I‘m also receiving threats. It’s many, I don’t want to read them.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says “domestic enemies of the state” are behind Sabio’s complaint. Asked about Sabio’s safety, Roque said he should report threats to the police.

“We have no ill will against him,” he added. “We know it (the complaint) will not proceed beyond preliminary examination.”


In an interview, Sabio described Duterte as a “death squad president” who bragged in public about killing criminals and promised voters he would kill thousands in an anti-drug crackdown if elected.

Duterte earned the nickname “the Punisher” because of allegations he operated a death squad that killed more than 1,000 criminals when he was Davao mayor. He suggested during a televised presidential election debate in 2016 that more would die if he became president.

“I do not want to commit a crime. But if by chance, God would place me there (as president), you watch out,” he said in widely reported comments. “This 1,000 will be 100,000. You will see the fish in Manila Bay become fat, I will throw you there.”

On the day of his inauguration in June 2016, he told supporters: “If you know any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

Since Duterte took office, 4,021 people have been killed in what police call legitimate operations against “drug personalities” they say ended in shootouts, according to police data. About 2,300 other drug-related homicides have been blamed by police on vigilantes.

Human rights groups say police take their cue from Duterte’s rhetoric and accuse them of executing suspects, mostly drug users and small-time pushers from slum districts. Police deny that and Duterte insists security forces can kill only in self-defence.

When he made the ICC complaint, Sabio said he was broke and needed sponsors to pay for his flight to The Hague. He had undergone an angioplasty and been through a marriage breakup, and was working out of an office his friend let him use for free.

He says he is still not fully recovered but he had no regrets.

“I always thought in the past the cases I fought, no matter how small, were preparing me for something big in the future,” said Sabio, who was a criminal lawyer in Manila for two decades before his marriage ended, prompting him to return south to his home city of Cagayan de Oro in 2015 to open his own practice.

“Fate directed me to the ICC.”

Sabio’s involvement started when a man named Edgar Matobato testified to a Senate inquiry in September 2016 that he was a hit man who killed at Duterte’s behest when he was Davao City mayor. Sabio said he learned from a priest that Matobato had no lawyer, so he volunteered.

The inquiry concluded there was no proof of a Davao death squad. It was reopened in February 2017 when a second self-confessed assassin testified, but senators again concluded there was insufficient evidence.

Sabio went to The Hague two months later to file a complaint he said is backed by many Filipinos, among them some of Duterte’s political opponents.

Two of those, lawmakers Gary Alejano and Antonio Trillanes, have filed a supplementary communication with the ICC to reinforce Sabio’s 77-page complaint. Both have welcomed the ICC’s preliminary examination.

Sabio said he knows what he’s doing will anger most Filipinos, but he’s undeterred.

“Popularity cannot be invoked as a defence in the ICC, it is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“I don’t care if millions of Filipinos will look at me as a villain.”

China wants to name 142 ocean features near the Philippines — If The Two Nations Can’s Agree On Names, Just Wait Until They Try To “Share” Natural Gas and Oil

February 17, 2018


A map, viewed using mapping tools from the National Centers for Environmental Information, shows the location of the undersea features in Benham or Philippine Rise that were named by China from 2014 to 2016. Details on undersea feature names were sourced from the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans.

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – February 18, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese names given to five undersea features in Benham or the Philippine Rise were just the tip of the iceberg, The STAR has learned.

In what some quarters see as a bid to cement its status as a maritime power, Beijing has proposed names to other undersea features in the South China Sea (SCS) and the Pacific Ocean, including in areas where China has territorial disputes with other countries.

Documents from the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) showed that China has proposed names to 142 undersea features worldwide since 2013.

The number of proposals made by China significantly increased in recent years, rising from 10 in 2013 to 19 in 2014, 21 in 2015, 50 in 2016 and 42 last year.

Most of the features are located in the Pacific Ocean, although a number are also in the South China Sea, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Out of the 142 proposals, the SCUFN approved the names for 84 undersea features, including the five in Philippine Rise, which was declared part of the Philippine continental shelf in 2012.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said China’s move to name undersea features appears to be part of its overall policy to demonstrate its capabilities.

“They are showing what they can do in terms of maritime research and exploration,” he told The STAR in a phone interview last Friday.

It was Batongbacal who first revealed China’s proposal to name five undersea features in Philippine Rise in recent years.

While this is not prohibited based on SCUFN rules, Batongbacal criticized the Philippine government for failing to act on proposals to name undersea features inside Philippine territory.

“We discovered these features in the course of making the extended continental shelf claim. (The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority) had proposals to name features using names of Filipino trees and birds,” he said.

“Leadership sat on the recommendations. The technical people knew about the naming proposals and made recommendations for action. Leadership sat on them as well,” he added.

He also noted that some of the proposals in Philippine Rise were made by the Chinese Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association, raising concerns over the possible exploitation of resources in the region.

While no Filipino is sitting at the SCUFN, the Philippines is a member of the IHO and could submit proposals, according to Batongbacal.

‘Politically sensitive’

Based on IHO documents, China first proposed naming features in Benham Rise in 2014 when it sought to name the Gongchou and Haidongqing Seamounts.

The SCUFN approved the proposal for Haidongqing but declined to name the other feature as Gongchou as it is already known as Vinogradov Seamount.

China proposed to name three more areas in Benham Rise in 2015: Jinghao, Qiangde and Tianbao Seamounts. It later withdrew the proposal for Qiangde, while the committee approved the proposals for Jinghao and Tianbao.

In 2016, China resubmitted its proposal for Qiangde, and added proposals for Cuiqiao, Jujiu, Mingyue and Sata Seamounts.

The SCUFN approved the proposals for Cuiqiao and Jujiu, but then postponed after some members raised concern over the procedures of naming undersea features near coastal countries that may have interests in the area.

The postponement was also applied to 20 other Chinese proposals to name features in disputed areas in the South China Sea.

During discussions in the SCUFN meeting in Italy last year, a proposal was made to the committee’s term of reference to facilitate discussion on names for features that are politically sensitive or controversial.

“The sub-committee will not consider undersea feature name proposals that may be considered politically sensitive or controversial. In reaching any decision not to consider certain proposals, the chair shall take into account views of the members of the sub-committee,” read the proposed amendment.

The committee said the proposal would keep its members from being involved in political considerations.

While this would address naming of politically-sensitive features, Batongbacal said this will not stop China from making similar proposals in the future.

During last year’s meeting, China’s representative Lin Shaohua said they would resubmit proposals that were postponed in 2016 in future SCUFN meetings.

No undersea feature in Philippine Rise was included in the proposals made by China last year.

However, it included three undersea features in Western Pacific Ocean that are on the eastern part of the Philippine Basin. These are beyond the extended continental shelf of the Philippines.

Ruling on the three proposals, the SCUFN approved the name Huaixu and Shouyang Ridges, but put in pending status the proposal for Jixia Hill.

China also succeeded in naming 10 undersea features in the South China Sea, although none appears to be within areas that the Philippines also claims.

Naming undersea features

According to China, its proposals to name undersea features are their contribution to the global efforts to map oceans worldwide.

It established in 2010 the China Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names to review proposals that would be submitted to the SCUFN.

“In recent years, China has been actively keeping up with the progress in the international undersea feature naming work,” read a document released in time with the 50th year of the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names.

“China carries out the research on the naming principles of general and proper names,” it added.

Other countries that proposed undersea feature names in recent years include Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, US, Russia, Brazil and Palau, among others.

The Philippines has not made any proposal to the committee in the past five years.

Batongbacal urged the Philippine government to propose names, especially in undersea features within the country’s territory.

“I do explain in interviews that naming doesn’t have an impact on sovereign rights. What I do raise is the government inaction on this,” he wrote in a post in his Facebook account.

“The blame largely rests on us. Aquino or Duterte administration, both are at fault, as far as I am concerned. Official arguments based on error do not help at all, and make it worse,” he said.



白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)

Image may contain: 1 person, text

No automatic alt text available.

Chinese military bases near the Philippines

No automatic alt text available.

China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.