Posts Tagged ‘Duterte’

Commentary: Dangers, opportunities in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

June 22, 2018

China’s Belt and Road Initiative can be a debt trap to countries who also have to manage Chinese companies with dubious track records

In this Oct. 20, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte is accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his arrival at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

Presidential photo/Toto Lozano
Weslene Uy ( – June 22, 2018 – 2:49pm

When President Rodrigo Duterte came back from his state visit to China in October 2016, his Cabinet members touted the US$ 24 billion in investment and credit line pledges that they have supposedly secured from their Chinese counterparts. A few days after their visit, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez disclosed a list of 26 different deals signed by the two parties.

While none of the projects from this list have progressed so far, it has alarmed pundits who pointed out that the deals had been forged with Chinese companies with dubious track records. After all, the Philippines is still smarting from botched projects—the NorthRail project and the National Broadband Network deal with ZTE Corp.—brokered over a decade ago.

During Duterte’s second visit to China this year, his preference for the country became indubitably clear as he declared that China is a very important ingredient in his infrastructure drive. “More than anybody else at this time of our national life, I need China,” he announced.

The present administration’s overtures towards China has spurred endless debate on China’s increasing role in our development agenda, especially in bridging the gap in the administration’s flagship infrastructure program.

In line with keeping the discourse alive on this subject, the Stratbase ADR Institute recently hosted a roundtable forum where Richard Heydarian, a non-resident fellow of the think tank, presented his special study “The 21st Century Silk Road: Perils and Opportunities of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

In his study, Heydarian observed that infrastructure development has become the new pivot of geopolitics. He commented that “power and influence is no longer measured by the military prowess or economic size,” but also by the country’s “ability to provide the necessary capital and technology for overhauling decaying or underdeveloped public infrastructure around the world.”

Under the helm of President Xi Jinping, China has committed to participating in furthering regional economic integration and in facilitating the process of building up infrastructure and connectivity. Towards this end, China launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2017, previously called the One Belt One Road Initiative, which seeks to connect Europe to Asia through various infrastructure projects that would encourage both physical connectivity and trade linkages.

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As far as China is concerned, Heydarian noted, BRI’s objectives are aligned with its geopolitical goals including facilitating its long-term plans of developing landlocked hinterlands and underdeveloped regions; outsourcing internal productive glut and infrastructure overcapacity; assisting and promoting troubled state-owned enterprises; developing trading partners’ basic infrastructure to reverse anemic growth in global trade; gaining foothold across strategically located nations; locking in rare commodities key to Chinese long-term development; and globalizing Chinese technological and industrial standards across emerging markets.

Of course, the BRI is not without its risks. As Heydarian pointed out, Chinese investments may further weaken the institutions of some of its beneficiaries, especially those where transparency and accountability are already lacking. For a minority of beneficiaries with low credit ratings, Chinese investments may put them in danger of falling into a debt trap.

On the other hand, for other countries like the Philippines that are trying to play catch up to fill its infrastructure deficit, the BRI will provide a necessary and much-needed support to fast-track the implementation of its infrastructure projects. Heydarian, however, warns that these investments will have to be “welcomed with cautious embrace by beneficiaries.”

So far, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by the president, has already approved some projects that China has committed to finance, such as the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, the South Line of the North South Railway, and most recently, the Subic-Clark Railway. China has also provided grants for the construction of two bridges across the Pasig River—the Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella Pantaleon Bridge.

To quell concerns regarding Chinese loans, the country’s economic managers, for their part, have assured us that they have heeded lessons from our past experiences and have promised us that adequate safeguards will be in place. For example, the government released a memorandum last year that Chinese-financed projects, regardless of amount, shall require approval of the Investment Coordination Committee.

As always, our top bureaucrats must exercise vigilance and due diligence in evaluating not only Chinese financing but all loans from different development partners and ensure that these are in our country’s best interest.

Weslene Uy is a senior economic research analyst of think thank Stratbase ADR Institute, a partner of



South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Wants China Out

June 19, 2018
President Duterte wants China out of the Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
President Duterte walks with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano during the 120th anniversary of the Departmernt of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City yesterday.

Krizjohn Rosales
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – June 19, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants China out of the Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but yesterday reiterated he would not declare war over the maritime row as Beijing is not a pushover that can be scared easily.

Duterte, who has been accused of not doing enough to assert the Philippines’ maritime rights, said he was not ready to sacrifice the lives of soldiers and policemen for a war he could not win.

He also claimed that his administration has protested the actions of China in the West Philippine Sea but did not elaborate.“With regard to South China Sea, what do you want? What kind of pugnacious attitude would I have to adopt to convince the Chinese to get out? If I threaten them or file a thousand protests, which we did, we just did not publish them. We protested actually,” the President said during the 120th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City.

He added that China has adopted an intransigent attitude.

“But if you talk to them, they will listen,” he said. “I cannot hit China. China is no pushover. You cannot scare him, and even the United States has shown a little bit of apprehension… There’s always a parity now of arms and that. You know that if you go against China, Russia will join the fray,” the President said.

The scenario, he said, would only mean the explosion of all nuclear bombs and “it’s going to be goodbye for everybody.”

For him, striking a deal with China has benefits, hinting of a possible joint exploration between the two countries.

“We have a deal. I can import the arms, the guided missiles, I can fight better. Because there is a new art of war now, it is not in the open field… China is not my ace. But certainly I can have the arms. Something good will happen, I’m sure, and that will be when we start to dig or anybody else, start to dig the minerals there,” the President added.

He also downplayed reports that members of Chinese Coast Guard forcibly seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, saying it was a “barter” and not an outright seizure of fish.

Last week, Filipino fishermen confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard forcibly took their prime catch from Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The fishermen said the Chinese Coast Guard personnel gave them noodles, cigarettes and bottled water in exchange for the fish but these were not enough to feed their families.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua has assured the Philippines that the Chinese government would probe the incident and would punish “rotten apples” who are guilty of harassing the Filipino fishermen.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told diplomats and officials who have doubts and are having a hard time following Duterte’s foreign policy that “it’s not too late” to have a change of heart.

He praised the work of diplomats, officials and personnel of the DFA, saying it is an agency that never sleeps because of the tasks relating to foreign policies and the protection of rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).  – Pia Lee-Brago



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Philippines: Catholic Missionary Sister Patricia Fox will be allowed to stay

June 18, 2018

Australian nun Patricia Fox will be staying in the Philippines as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reversed the order of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) that downgraded her missionary visa to a tourist visa.

Sister Patricia Fox is all smiles after learning of that the DOJ reversed BI’s ruling and she can stay in the country for now. /PDI PHOTO BY JAM STA. ROSA

In a resolution made public on Monday, the DOJ granted the petition filed by Sister Fox, saying the BI has no legal right to forfeit visas.

Guevarra explained that while Philippine Immigration laws give the BI broad powers in regulating the entry and stay of aliens in the country, visa forfeiture is not among those powers.

“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers—including visas—when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

While Guevarra agreed with the BI that visa is a privilege, he said “it does not mean that it can be withdrawn without legal basis.”

“The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” Guevarra added.

To tolerate BI’s actions is to “legitimize assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws,” Guevarra said.

However, Guevarra said while the missionary visa is valid, the case against her will be treated as one for visa cancellation, a procedure that is allowed by law.

Guevarra ordered the BI to hear the case on visa cancellation along with the deportation case.

“Until a final resolution of the visa cancellation and/or deportation proceedings is reached, or until the expiration of her missionary visa, whichever comes first, Sister Fox may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines,” Guevarra said. /vvp

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South China Sea: Philippine Lawmakers Worry Over China’s Military ‘All Around’

June 18, 2018
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – June 18, 2018 – 12:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid reports that China has installed anti-cruise ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers in the South China Sea, the Philippine government still need more information on the militarization in the disputed waters, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Monday.

The Senate is set to hold a hearing on President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy toward China but no date has been set yet.

Pimentel, in a television interview, said the Senate should play a more active part in the formulation of the country’s foreign policy.

Protesters display placards and shout slogans in continuing protest against China over its coast guards’ alleged seizure of fish caught by Filipino fishermen near the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea Thursday, June 14, 2018 by the baywalk in Manila, Philippines. The protesters denounced China’s recent alleged harassment and assailed President Rodrigo Duterte for his “sheer neglect to assert our legal and historic claim” in the South China Sea.

AP/Bullit Marquez


“The participation of the Senate is only in concurring in the ratification of treaties already entered into by the executive branch… Since our Constitution already hints that the Senate has a role in foreign policy then we should also be hearing our issues or concerns regarding foreign relations, international issues,” Pimentel told CNN Philippines’ “The Source.”

The senator also pointed out that only China’s island-building has been confirmed but not its militarization of the man-made islands.

“We need more pictures… We need more information and then whether those were made for us again to be used against us. I do not think so,” Pimentel said.

Stressing that the Philippines is “close friends” with China, Pimentel said that the weapons are not directed at the country.

In May, American broadcast network CNBC was the first one to report that Beijing quietly deployed anti-cruise ship missiles on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The Wall Street Journal had also reported that China appears to have installed military jamming equipment on Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef.

The Philippine government, however, earlier admitted that the country cannot verify such reports due to lack of certain technology.

“Well I had a talk with the security — National Security Adviser (Hermogenes Esperon) and he told me that there’s a technology that we need that we still don’t have to be able to verify it for ourselves,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last month.

While the Philippines was insisting that it was still verifying reports on China’s recent deployments, the Chinese government itself confirmed the reports.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the deployment of defense facilities was meant to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.

“The relevant deployment targets no one. Anyone with no invasive intention will find no reason to worry about this. We hope that the relevant party could view this matter in an objective and calm way,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.





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Satellite images show damage to South China Sea shoals — Some blaming Chinese clam diggers

June 17, 2018
Satellite images posted by Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, compare the situation of Panatag Shoal in 2009, 2014 and 2016. From left: the undisturbed coral reef segment in 2009; the visible reef damage allegedly caused by Chinese boats which use propellers to harvest giant clams in 2014, two years after Beijing took control of the area; and even more damage with deep scars outlined by the shadows (highlighted) in 2016, when 300 square meters of formerly pristine reef were turned into rubble.
Evelyn MacairanJanvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – June 17, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Publicly-available satellite images show the considerable damage supposedly made by Chinese clam diggers in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since 2012, an international maritime law expert posted on social media yesterday.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, shared satellite images taken from Google Earth that showed changes in the shoal since the Chinese took control of the resource-rich area six years ago.

“Using Google Earth, one can measure about 552 hectares of the back (inner) reef of Scarborough Shoal visibly destroyed by clam diggers since 2012,” he said in a post on his social media accounts.

“That’s visible damage, by the way. Only ground-truthing can provide a truly accurate assessment,” he added.

In an earlier post, Batongbacal posted three satellite images of the shoal which showed what he said are scars left by Chinese fishermen that used propellers to cut the reef in order to dislodge giant clams.

“The third, taken a few months after the arbitral award handed down in 2016, shows even more scars and indicating complete destruction of the area shown (approximately 2.5-kilometer distance from end to end),” he wrote.

“All this destruction took place with the China Coast Guard keeping watch over the shoal. In 2016, the CSIS AMTI (Center for Strategic and International Studies-Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative) estimated roughly half of the total reef area of Scarborough to have been destroyed,” he added.

Batongbacal noted that Chinese boats continued to carry out this activity until 2017 as seen by photos taken by the media during maritime air patrols.

He said the recent complaints of Filipino fishermen against Chinese Coast Guard taking their fish indicate activities that continuously damage the shoal.

Duterte told: Protect fishermen, not yourself

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate urged President Duterte yesterday to send the Philippine Coast Guard to Panatag Shoal to protect fishermen from alleged harassment by the Chinese.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on the Laity (ECL) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Duterte’s lackluster protest contributed to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, while Sen. Richard Gordon stressed the government cannot afford to remain docile in dealing with China if it wants to be taken seriously in its claims over its territories.

In his blog “Panaghoy,” Pabillo said Duterte is responsible for China’s encroachment into Philippine territory, bullying of Filipino fishermen and destruction of marine resources.

Pabillo pointed out that during Duterte’s term, China was able to bring in more military hardware to the disputed West Philippine Sea, which is also being claimed by other countries including the Philippines.

The Manila bishop said Duterte takes the matter lightly, even claiming that China promised to protect him from foreign detractors who might attempt to oust him from the presidency.

“Duterte and his administration have not made any fuss on China’s moves and aggressiveness. He just jokes about them and even makes innuendoes that China will protect him and not allow him to fall. If this is the message he sends out, China on its part will not hesitate to do what it wants,” Pabillo said.

“So again we can say that Duterte has a great influence in the Chinese aggression even if he does not have any direct hand in it,” Pabillo noted.

Pabillo said there is not even any strongly-worded protest against “our big neighbor” even if Filipino fishermen are already being harassed in their own territories.

“The Chinese have even the gall to claim that it is by their own goodwill that Filipinos fish in their (that is, our) seas,” Pabillo said.

Pabillo also pointed out that China is not a defender of human rights or the rule of law, does not accept international law if it is not to its advantage and uses its might to bully a poor neighbor, like what it is doing in the West Philippine Sea.

“China can easily bully us too if we allow it to gain any foothold in our territories and in our policies. Duterte too is playing the same game. He has no moral compass to guide him,” Pabillo said.

Even if Duterte has often said that he loves the Philippines, the bishop doubted his sincerity.

Pabillo said the Chief Executive has “no love of country… He uses situations just to his own advantage. He does not care about the Filipinos or about the future of the country.”

Zarate, for his part, said the President should send the PCG to accompany or escort the hapless fisherfolk at Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, or in other Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to show China that we are serious in defending our people as well as our territory. Our officials should always assert our independence, instead of them acting as apologists for China, which apparently now treats the Philippines as her vassal state,” Zarate said.

China took control of Panatag Shoal in 2012 after a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels. Beijing refused to honor an agreement mediated by the United States to end the standoff and made it appear that the Philippines backed down, the previous administration said.

Under the 2016 United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea, including a large part of the country’s exclusive economic zone, Panatag Shoal was declared a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese.

“China is apparently treating the Duterte administration as a pushover by doing what they want in Bajo de Masinloc and the rest of the (West Philippine Sea) without nary a whimper from Malacañang,” Zarate said.

“We are not saying that we declare war on China. But what we need is for Malacañang to stand up for our fisherfolk and our territory. We have already suggested in the past the filing of a diplomatic protest and increasing patrols of our seas, among others. One thing is clear though, the government must do something now to stop this invasion of China,” Zarate said.

Zarate also cautioned the US against exacerbating tension in the disputed sea.

“The situation in the West Philippine Sea is already getting serious. The US and China should stop their sabre rattling so as to lessen tension. The Philippines and other small claimants are in a situation akin to having two bullies in their backyard raring for a fight and thrashing each other without regard for the backyard or the houses nearby,” he said.

He urged claimant-states like the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia to work together to ease tension in the West Philippine Sea.

Fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan have reported that Chinese Coast Guard personnel have been taking part of their catch in Panatag Shoal area and that Chinese fishermen have destroyed coral reefs there.

Seek foreign help 

Gordon said the government must be more aggressive in dealing with China, which has been claiming areas in the disputed South China Sea and clearly establishing a military presence there.

In an interview over dwIZ, Gordon said the Philippines’ claims over the West Philippine Sea would not be taken seriously by China since it has no military might to speak of at all.

He recalled how China refrained from acting so aggressively when the US still had its military bases in the Philippines.

With the American bases long gone, Gordon said there is nothing standing in the way of China doing what it wants in the disputed waters.

Gordon urged the government to reach out to its allies such as the US, Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Australia for support.

He said the Philippines must make its presence felt in the West Philippine Sea by building its own structures there, whether these are airfields, buildings or any structure to show signs of occupation.

Gordon said diplomatic protests against China should also be filed if this has not yet been done in order to show that the country would not allow itself to be bullied.

Even if these actions could result in some form of retaliation from China, Gordon said the country should be ready to accept this because pushing back is the right thing to do.

Gordon said it is time the government takes the strengthening of the armed forces seriously because this has been neglected by all of the previous administrations.

He recalled how he pushed for the allocation of 13 percent of the collections from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law for building up the military, but this was not carried.

“You cannot have any bargaining chip if you don’t have a strong armed forces,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he has met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to find out what the military needs in the 2019 national budget.  – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy


Philippines: Senate panels to probe Duterte’s China policy (Follow the money)

June 16, 2018

Is the Philippine government covering up the Duterte government’s subservience to China and neglect in defending the West Philippine Sea. How much has this cost the Philippines — and who is taking Chinese money?

“We will soon conduct a public hearing and I will work with my colleagues, including the committee on national defense and security, in determining how best to support current initiatives to diffuse the tension, while at the same time protecting our sovereignty and territorial rights,” Sen. Loren Legarda said in a statement.

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) – June 16, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Two Senate committees will jointly hold a public hearing to determine how effective the country’s foreign policy is in the face of alarming developments in the West Philippine Sea, particularly China’s military buildup and its harassment of Filipino fishermen.

No date has been set for the hearing to be led by the Senate committees on foreign relations and on national defense and security.

Foreign committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda welcomed the resolutions calling for the hearings, saying the Senate, “as an independent body, should assert our role in helping shape the government’s foreign policy.”

Sen. Gregorio Honasan chairs the national defense and security committee.

“We will soon conduct a public hearing and I will work with my colleagues, including the committee on national defense and security, in determining how best to support current initiatives to diffuse the tension, while at the same time protecting our sovereignty and territorial rights,” Legarda said in a statement.

“I maintain the view that diplomacy plays a key role in finding long-term and durable solutions to the West Philippine Sea issue,” she said.

Honasan said while the government is exhausting all diplomatic options to resolve its dispute with China, it should also consider taking part in joint military exercises with the US and other allies to show its solidarity with other nations against militarization and other provocative acts in the region.

He stressed joint military exercises were not meant to provoke hostilities but simply to show China the international community does not tolerate “abuse.”

He cited reports of China’s “aggressive” and “inflammatory” deployment of nuclear-capable bombers, fighter jets and missile systems to some islands in the Paracels and Spratlys, some of which are claimed by the Philippines.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros earlier called for a “foreign policy audit” in the light of China’s continued militarization of the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon dared foreign affairs chief Alan Peter Cayetano to disclose to the public the 100 or so protests that the latter claimed to have filed against China.

In Bacolod City, Vice President Leni Robredo has appealed to the nation, especially its leaders, to take a tougher stand against China’s provocations.

“Why do we have to seek permission from China for Filipino fishermen to engage in fishing activities in an area that belongs to the Philippines? Why are they saying the Philippines’ request should be granted out of ‘goodwill’ when it has already been ruled by the international arbitration tribunal that the area belongs to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone?” Robredo said in remarks during an event at the Diocese of Bacolod on Thursday.

“We’re not waging war. Protesting doesn’t mean going to war; it’s just fighting for our rights,” she said in Filipino. “How can other nations help us when we cannot fight for what is ours?”

Secret backers

In Zambales, members of a militant group of fishermen have accused the military’s Northern Luzon Command of using their supposed dialogue to talk them out of opposing or condemning Chinese bullying in the West Philippine Sea.

The Pambansang  Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said its members felt the supposed dialogue last Thursday was “a way to pacify the anger and intimidate the fisherfolk from standing against Chinese harassment.”

In an earlier statement, Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat said the “forum aims to promote safety of life at sea, raise awareness among our countrymen and promote sovereignty over our maritime areas in Northern Luzon.”

But based on how the meeting unfolded, Pamalakaya said Nolcom “seemed to have been commissioned by China to smoothly facilitate their (Chinese) intervention in the country.” The fishermen’s group did not give details, however, to back its claim.

“Nolcom’s job is to guard our sovereignty against any foreign aggressor as mandated by the Constitution, not to create fear and coerce Filipino fishers,” Pamalakaya said.

“Like Malacañang, the Armed Forces of the Philippines seemed to have been commissioned by China to smoothly facilitate their intervention in the country,” said Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap.

It also accused presidential spokesman Harry Roque of using fishermen “to justify and cover up the Duterte government’s subservience to China and neglect in defending the West Philippine Sea” when he arranged for a group of fishermen to be presented to the media at Malacañang.

“What Roque did in presenting Zambales fishers harassed by Chinese coast guards was nothing but to whitewash the incident. He wanted to make it appear that Filipino fishers prefer the present situation wherein they are able to fish in the area unlike before,” Pamalakaya said.

“But the West Philippine Sea is indisputably ours in every aspect and we don’t have to ask for the consent of anyone in order to fish there,” it added.

“Roque obviously wanted to cover up the incompetence of the Duterte government to resolve the sea row and justify its servitude to China which aggressively grabs our marine territory,” Hicap said. Critics said the Palace briefing with fishermen appeared staged or designed to downplay an incident last May where the Chinese seized a significant portion of the catch of Filipino fishermen at the Panatag Shoal.

Navy Commodore Nichols Driz, commander of the Naval Forces North Luzon (NFNL), said not all fishermen were complaining about being forced by the Chinese to part with their catch.

He said closer interaction among the fishermen and other concerned government agencies like the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and local government units (LGUs) would help in crafting ways to better address the concerns of local fishermen.

Rolly Bernal,  a leader of a fishing group, said he hopes better relations with China would give them unrestricted access to Panatag Shoal.

Other problems fishermen had to deal with, he said, are illegal fishing practices like dynamite fishing, poaching and destruction of corals.

Roseller Latagen, 50, said Chinese coast guards would take as much as P3,000 worth of their fish catch in exchange for two small bottles of water.

Latagen said they are only allowed to fish near Panatag Shoal for two to three months in a year while Chinese fishermen, who even destroy corals, are allowed to fish all year round. As a result, they are forced to just fish near the coast where their catch is just enough to feed their family.

The same concern was raised by 72-year-old Angelico Pilon, who could only hope the government would step in to help them regain access to Panatag Shoal.

Floro Delegencia, another fisherman from Masinloc, narrated an incident where a group of Chinese boarded their vessel to get some fish in exchange for bottles of beer and cigarettes. – With Ding Cervantes, Bebot Sison Jr., Gilbert Bayoran





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Philippines/China: Senate Minority Leader says time to review ‘policy of appeasement’ toward China

June 14, 2018

The government should review its policy of “appeasement and accommodation” toward China, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, saying that such a stance did not necessarily translate into economic benefits for the country.

Drilon issued the statement amid reports of increasing China’s militarization of the South China Sea conflict and of its coast guard’s taking of Filipino fishermen’s catch on Scarborough Shoal.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to their bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017.

Etienne Oliveau/Pool Photo via AP

According to Drilon, President Rodrigo Duterte should reevaluate his policy of appeasement toward China as records showed that it was not resulting in increase in trade and investments and in tourist arrivals in the country.

“I think the government should review the policy of appeasement and accommodation on China,” Drilon said during the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

Drilon cited the case of Vietnam which had been vocal in asserting its rights and condemning China for its aggressiveness in staking its claim to the disputed waters, a region believed to be holding vast reserves of natural resources.

Drilon said that foreign direct investments from China for the year 2017 stood at $31 million, “very minimal” compared to the $600 million from Japan and $160 from the United States.

“Vietnam, in 2017, got from Chinese direct investment was US$2.170 billion contrasted to our US$31 million. That indicates the non-connection between the policy of appeasement as contrasted to Vietnam’s policy of confrontation,” he said.

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and China stood at $21.94 billion in 2016 while that between Vietnam and China was at $71.85 billion, he said.

Tourist arrivals in Vietnam from China reached four million in 2017 while in the Philippines it was only 968,447.

Duterte has been trying to forge closer ties to China in an effort to court Chinese money and investments in the country.

He has also chosen to take a non-confrontational approach to China’s increasing militarization of the South China Sea dispute and to back-burn a 2016 United Nations-backed tribunal ruling invalidating much of Beijing’s expansive claims to the disputed seas.

Drilon also urged the Senate to conduct an audit of the country’s foreign policy, saying that the chamber is the partner of the executive department in conducting the country’s foreign relations.

“It is only correct that the Senate be informed of how foreign relations are being conducted; otherwise we will be in the dark, and therefore, I support that proposed review of our relationship with China,” Drilon, a former justice secretary and Senate president, said.

“We are making the call addressed to the chair of the committee to assert the Senate’s role as a partner in the conduct of foreign affairs. The Senate lead should take a serious look at this and assert the role of the Senate in this area.”

Drilon said that the Philippines should be more assertive of its rights in the South China Sea and of the 2016 ruling.

Aside from China and the Philippines, a host of regional countries also have competing claims to the seas, through which $3 trillion worth of trade annually passes.




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Philippine President’s Plan To Arm Community Leaders Creates Possible New Rule of Law Nighmare — “It’s a wild, wild west scenario.”

June 14, 2018

The Philippines interior ministry said on Wednesday that it plans to acquire pistols for community leaders willing to fight crime, sparking fears of more lawless bloodshed in the country’s violent crackdown on drugs.

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president, said on Tuesday that he was considering arming community leaders, known as “barangay” captains, after pledging that officials who opted to fight the war against drugs would have his full support.

Last week he promised to provide the same legal protection to barangay captains as he did to soldiers or police, vowing that they “will never go to jail” if they shot suspected criminals while performing their official duties.

Martin Dino, the interior department undersecretary responsible for the country’s 42,000 barangays, told Reuters that handguns would be provided for free, or private purchases subsidised, on the condition that the barangay captains were not involved in illegal drugs.

Officials have justified the plan with the argument that community leaders are too afraid to report illegal drug activities.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticised for is war on drugs
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticised for his war on drugs CREDIT: ERIK DE CASTRO/AFP

However, critics of Mr Duterte’s violent campaign against drugs fear that it will spiral further of control if more guns flood the streets.

Thousands of suspected drugs users and peddlers have been murdered in cold blood since Mr Duterte rose to power in June 2016 on a tough anti-drugs platform.

Many have been killed by masked assassins, who human rights groups have claimed have links to the police. They have accused the Philippine authorities allowing rampant extrajudicial killings to take place with apparent impunity.

The proposed plan to offer firearms to barangay chiefs was slammed by opposition politicians on Wednesday, reported ABS-CBN.

“Arming barangay captains of the 40,000 barangays simply means creating a private army of political kingpins in cities, provinces, and municipalities. It’s a wild, wild west scenario,” warned Edgar Erice, an inner city MP.

Representative Tom Villarin said the idea was a “recipe for disaster”.

He added: “With loose guns already a big problem, allowing more firearms even if licensed, would perpetuate a culture of violence and abuse of power by persons of authority.”

‘Freedom is fake’ without justice, Catholic Church leader says on Philippine Independence Day

June 12, 2018


Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle blessing the palm fronds during a mass at the Manila Cathedral.

The STAR/Edd Gumban
Kristine Joy Patag ( – June 12, 2018 – 5:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — True liberty is without killings, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said as the country commemorates the 120th anniversary of the Philippine Independence.

In a statement, the church leader lamented the continued killings of Filipinos within the country and even in foreign land.

“Freedom is fake if justice is being toyed at. We repeat: Destruction of life is against the will of God. Killing is not the solution to personal and societal problems,” Tagle said in Filipino.

Tagle mourned that demise of Henry Acorda, an overseas Filpino worker in Slovakia who was beaten up to death, and the continued killings in the country, including priests, latest of which was Father Richmon Nilo.

READ: OFW dies after being beaten up in Slovakia

Just last weekend, Nilo was gunned down by unidentified gunmen as he was about to celebrate a mass inside the Nuestra Señora dela Nieve Chapel in Brgy. Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija.

Nilo was the third priest who was killed in a span of six months. Father Marcelito Paez was gunned down in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last December 4, while Father Mark Ventura was killed by armed men in Gattaran, Cagayan Province.

“We weep for them, for their families and the entire country. We ask justice for them,” the Manila archbishop added.

Nilo’s killing sparked strong condemnation from different dioceses across the country and human rights groups.

Plea for Filipinos

Tagle then asked the Filipino Catholics not to heed “anger, envy, arrogance and revenge to hurt their fellowmen.”

“The Filipino who is truly free does not abuse, destroy and lambast others,” the archbishop added.

He also urged lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to review the laws on manufacture and use of firearms.

“Why are there so many guns or weapons at disposal?” Tagle said.

“Let us not wait for the day when it would be easier to buy guns than rice,” he added.

The members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines have not been remiss of condemning the rising spate of killings under the administration of the President Rodrigo Duterte. In September 2017, the CBCP issued its strongly worded statement against the drug war, and has continued to voice their condemnation of the deaths under this administration.

READ: Killing of priest ‘unchristian, un-Filipino’ — Cabanatuan bishop

On Monday, June 11, the Diocese of Cabanatuan slammed the killing of a priest as “unchristian,” “inhuman” and “un-Filipino.” – with a report from Evelyn Macairan


Philippines demands China stop taking fishermen’s catch — “With China here, there is only China’s law.”

June 11, 2018

The Philippines on Monday demanded that China stop confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea, calling the practice “unacceptable”.

The remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman were a rare public rebuke from Manila, which has taken a non-confrontational approach with Beijing over the resource-rich waterway.

© AFP/File | Filipino fishermen say the Chinese coast guard is seizing their catch at the disputed Scarborough Shoal

China controls several reefs in the sea including Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing seized from Manila in 2012 and is just 230 kilometres (143 miles) from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

China claims almost the entire sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, despite competing partial claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque on Monday confirmed a report that Chinese Coast Guard personnel seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in the shoal in May in violation of an agreement between the two nations allowing Filipinos to fish there.

“We are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the coast guard from doing these acts,” Roque told reporters.

“That is unacceptable. That is why we informed the Chinese we will not allow fish to be taken from our countrymen.”

The Chinese foreign ministry said it was investigating the reports and authorities will “seriously” deal with them if they are confirmed.

“Out of friendship, China has made proper arrangements for Filipino fishermen,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

“The Chinese coast guard is monitoring relevant waters to ensure peace and order in the area, and also offers humanitarian assistance to the Philippines fishermen,” Geng said.

“The Chinese coast guard always abides by the law.”

Duterte’s administration rejects criticism that its response to Chinese activities in the hotly contested waters has been weak.

China in May reportedly deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the Spratly Islands and flew nuclear-capable bombers to a base in another disputed part of the sea.

Duterte’s aides have said previously the Philippines is taking “all diplomatic action” to protect its claims while insisting it would not anger China by engaging in “megaphone diplomacy”.

Manila, which has pursued trade deals and investment from China, instead holds regular talks with Beijing on the dispute.

On Monday Roque refused to describe the latest incident as harassment, adding the Chinese Coast Guard gave the Filipino fishermen noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange for their catch.

The fishermen, who appeared with Roque in the news briefing, said they were powerless to stop repeated seizures by the Chinese.

“The (Chinese coast guard personnel) board our boats, look at where we store the fish and take the best ones. We cannot do anything because their huge vessels are there,” said Romel Cejuela, one of the fishermen.