Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Philippines: Japanese security expert backs Judge Carpio on Permanent Court of Arbitration, South China Sea, Benham Rise

January 19, 2018
By: – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
 / 10:05 AM January 19, 2018
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China research ship Ke Xue.  Maritime scientific exploration is usually done by a soverien nation with rights to the sea area subject to research. When an outside nation is brought in to research, an extensive legal agreemnent is usually required to protect the sovereign owner’s rights. What is the Philippine Agreement with China — or has some underhanded deal or bribes set up the current state of affairs?

TOKYO – Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was right in insisting that the Philippines should deny China access to the Philippine Rise if Beijing continued to reject a United Nations-backed arbitral court ruling honoring Manila’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, a leading Japanese international security expert said.

At the same time, Professor Ken Jimbo of the Keio University’s Faculty of Policy Management backed Carpio’s argument that Beijing should respect the landmark July 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague whether China liked it or not.

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SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH A diver explores the seabed of Benham Rise believed to be rich in marine resources and underwater minerals. —INQUIRER PHOTO

The magistrate, who has made the Philippines’ ownership claims over portions of the South China Sea his personal advocacy, contradicted Malacañang’s position that China’s recognition or non-recognition of the PCA verdict was immaterial.

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President Duterte

“The Philippines has a clear legal judgment on what could be allowed and what could not be allowed (under the international law),” Jimbo told visiting foreign journalists here on Thursday.

“And that is not based purely on the Philippine interpretation of where is the red line, but there’s an internationally-recognized legal red line. That’s the strength of the PCA,” he also said.

Jimbo even added: “I do agree with (Carpio) in trying to manage the issue and I hope to see the consistency (that) every decision the Philippines will make… should be based on the PCA ruling. I wish to see the Philippines maintain the status of the PCA (decision).”

Early this week, Carpio labeled as “dumb” the Duterte administration’s decision to let a Chinese vessel conduct a supposed marine scientific research in the Philippine Rise, internationally known as Benham Rise, since China has maintained its intransigence not to recognize the arbitral ruling.

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The United Nations (UN) had already ruled that the rise, believed to be rich in oil and marine resources, was part of the Philippine continental shelf in 2012 and awarded the Philippines sovereign rights to explore and exploit resources on the submerged plateau.

In March last year, President Duterte admitted that he had authorized Chinese survey vessels to enter the Philippine Rise as part of an agreement.

But Carpio said the Philippines should not let China avail its rights under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) for its refusal to heed the international law in its entirety.

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“By refusing to accept the award of the… arbitral tribunal pursuant to the dispute settlement provisions of Unclos, China is not accepting its obligation under Unclos,” he said. “China is cherry-picking and not taking Unclos as one package deal.”

In response, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte’s decision to let Beijing explore the rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau in the Philippine Sea just 250 kilometers east of Isabela province, was irrelevant with the issue over the West Philippine Sea.

“Science is science,” Roque said. “Science knows nationalities and the requirement is Philippine scientists must also participate in the scientific exercise and the results must be shared with Philippine authorities.”

Interestingly, Roque had previously been very vocal against Beijing’s intrusion into Philippine waters until he was designated by the Chief Executive as his official mouthpiece a few months ago.

Jimbo, who has done researches and studies on security policies in the Asia-Pacific region, noted that Japan had been supportive of the Philippines’ efforts to secure a legally-binding solution to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, which also involved Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

When asked how to best counter China’s hardheadedness in complying with the arbitral court ruling, Jimbo said the international community should continue to rally behind the Philippines.

“I think it (PCA ruling) has been very much politicised in a way… The international community needs to congratulate what the Philippines has done so far,” he said. “It was a very rare case in international society that the PCA made a judgment on a very specific legal issue in the South China Sea.”

He said that although it may be a bitter pill to swallow, Mr. Duterte should rethink his policy of veering away from the United States militarily while increasing the Philippine engagement with China on economic matters.

“If you look at the wider perspective of the security architecture in the region, the US engagement not only in Northeast Asia, but also in (Southeast Asia), is still the platform in creating the basic kind of structure of deterrence and response capability,” Jimbo reiterated.

With China’s rapid rise as an economic superpower, its annual defense budget had eclipsed Japan’s military spending in the past several years, making Beijing a force to reckon with in the whole Asian region, according to Jimbo.

“Obviously, US has lot of fluctuation in engagement, but we cannot really replace the role of the US. We can engage in Philippine maritime security, but not in replacing the role of the US,” he said.

Moreover, the Japanese security expert said the Duterte administration may reconsider its decision to take on China and the South China Sea issue unilaterally.

“I think President Duterte and his team may come back to the logic that it’s not about what the US thinks, but it’s about the multinational platform (that must) co-exist with (his) China policy,” he said.

“The Philippine government has the comprehensive understanding on how to deal with them… I hope that those kind of ‘black-and-white’ type of engagement with China should be moderated. Otherwise, China will likely to penetrate into that logic,” he continued. /kga

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


China is again exploiting the Philippines

January 18, 2018


By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star)

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MANILA, Philippines — China is again exploiting the goodwill of the Philippine government to conduct studies in Philippine seas to discover more areas rich in minerals and gas, a lawmaker warned yesterday.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate cautioned the public that with the Duterte administration’s friendly approach to the Chinese, Beijing is using the same modus operandi it employed during the Arroyo administration.

Zarate reminded the public about the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) of Beijing in 2005, wherein Philippine    official position in the disputed West Philippine Sea “jeopardized our claims in the Recto Reed Bank” near the waters off Palawan.

He warned that the JMSU during the Arroyo administration “is bound to happen again in the case of Benham Rise.”

Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf awarded by the United Nations in 2012, which provides Manila the exclusive sovereign rights over it. The area is believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should rethink its decision to allow Chinese oceanographers to conduct studies in Philippine waters because it is one of the methods they used before under the JMSU that China entered with the Arroyo administration,” Zarate said.



South China Sea and Beyond: Chinese research ship ‘Kexue’ to conduct research in Philippine waters

January 18, 2018


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China research ship Ke Xue


By Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 18, 2018 – 2:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — China will deploy its most sophisticated research ship to study Philippine waters, including the potentially resource-rich Benham Rise (Philippine Rise).

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) earlier slammed the Department of Foreign Affairs for allowing the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) to conduct research in waters off Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and off Eastern Mindanao.

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The Chinese marine exploration will take place on January 24 to February 25 this year.

READ: Alejano: DFA approved Chinese think tank request to study Philippine waters

In a press conference in Beijing last Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang confirmed that Chinese research vessel “Kexue” will survey Philippine eastern waters, adding that such a cooperation would further strengthen the two countries’ bilateral relations.

“China commends this decision made by the Philippine side on agreeing to China’s scientific activities and offering facilitation,” Lu said.

“We welcome Philippine scientific research institutions’ participation and would like to work with them to advance maritime practical cooperation in marine research and other fields so as to create a favorable environment for the sound, steady and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” he added.

The $87.5-million Kexue was handed over to IO-CAS in 2012, newspaper China Daily reported. In September 5 last year, Kexue reportedly finished a month-long scientific exploration of the western Pacific Ocean.

Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations.

Kexue can also conduct water body detection, atmospheric exploration, deep-sea environment exploration and remote sensing information verification.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ undisputed claim to the Benham Rise.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed an Executive Order officially renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” to assert the country’s sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area in 2016.

The Philippine Navy now regularly patrols the continental shelf.

According to Alejano, the Chinese researchers will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute “as a requirement.”

Alejano also revealed that a similar plea was lodged by French-based non-profit organization Tara Expeditions Foundation, but it was declined by the DFA.

The lawmaker said Tara Expeditions was a better choice if Manila was seeking additional resources and manpower to study eastern waters, noting that France, unlike China, has no territorial conflict with the Philippines.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the law gives equal chance to foreign countries to study Philippine waters as long as there are Filipinos on board.

Foreign marine researchers must also share their findings and data with their Filipino counterparts, Cayetano added.

READ: Cayetano: ‘Same rules for all countries’ seeking to study Philippine waters






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

Judge Carpio: Philippines dumb to grant China request to do research in Benham Rise

January 16, 2018

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday said it would be “dumb” if the Philippine government would allow the request of China to explore the resource-rich Philippine Rise.

“China has squatted on the West Philippine Sea and refuses to leave despite the ruling of the UNCLOS tribunal. Now, China requests to be allowed to survey the Philippine Sea on the east side of the Philippines. The Philippines would be dumb to grant China’s request,” Carpio said in a 24 Oras report by Raffy Tima.

Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano last week said that he had recieved information that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had granted the request of a Chinese entity to do research in waters off eastern Luzon.

The Philippine Rise, formerly known as the Benham Rise, is located east of Luzon and is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf.

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In 2012, the United Nations gave the country exclusive sovereign rights over the rise, believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

Chinese vessels were spotted surveying the said area in 2017, prompting the Philippine government to send Beijing a note verbale, seeking clarification as regards the presence of its ships in the resource-rich area.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Carpio should respect the executive branch once a decision was already made.

“Sana respetuhin natin ‘yung separation of powers kapag meron ng kasong nakahain sa kanya,” Roque said.

DFA secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said “Philippine law says research can be done as along as there is a Filipino on board.”

“So there’s nothing suspicious about approval or disapproval of scientific research whether they’re Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Singaporeans. If they comply we will approve, if they do not comply we will not approve,” Cayetano said.

It is the DFA which usually grants applications to conduct research in the area, with coordination from technical agencies depending on the type of research. —Anna Felicia Bajo/NB, GMA News





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

Philippine President Duterte Allowed China “More Extensive” Research Rights in South China Sea, Pacific Ocean Near The Philippines — Chinese Chicanery in the Palace — Who Gains the Most?

January 15, 2018

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Chinese research vessel ‘Kexue’ is seen in the South China Sea. How do we know China is not stealing Philippine oil, fish and other natural resources?

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally made a decision to let China conduct scientific research off the Philippines’ Pacific coast, his spokesman said on Monday, despite concern among critics about threats to maritime sovereignty.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that as chief architect of foreign policy, Duterte allowed China to work with the University of the Philippines in Benham Rise, an area roughly the size of Greece and believed by some scientists to be rich in biodiversity and tuna.

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Welcome to The Philippines!

The United Nations declared Benham Rise, off the Pacific coast, part of the continental shelf of the Philippines in 2012. Manila last year renamed it the “Philippine Rise”.

Though China does not lay claim to the area, the lingering presence of its vessels for several months in late 2016 triggered concern about its intentions.

The Philippines granting of the permission to China was not announced and was revealed a few days ago by a lawmaker who has been fiercely critical of Duterte’s close ties with Beijing.

The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime squabbles over sovereignty in the South China Sea, but there has been no disagreement about waters off Manila’s Pacific coast.

Roque said anyone opposed to the joint research project should go to Congress and raise the issue there.

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Filipino fishermen have long complained about their “Chinese overseers.”

“If this is not a wise move of the president, then a law could be enacted to prohibit it,” he said.

The Philippines would grant permission to any other country that might show interest in conducting maritime research at Benham Rise, he added.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)





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

ASEAN: Philippine President Duterte May Push For Resource Sharing in the South China Sea (Although China is Not an ASEAN Member and Holds Land in Violation of UN Court Ruling)

October 24, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the National Convention Center in the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and other related summits last Sept. 6, 2016 in Vientiane, Laos. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte may rally fellow Southeast Asian leaders attending the region’s upcoming summit in Manila next month to support the sharing of resources in the disputed South China Sea.

Speaking before the ASEAN High Level Forum last week, Duterte said he was in favor of sharing resources in the contested waters—which China, an ASEAN dialogue partner, also claims. The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

His explanation for possible joint exploration hinted at a willingness to open exclusive economic zones to foreign parties despite an international court ruling favoring Manila’s entitlements over the sea.

READ: Duterte finds no urgency in South China Sea row

Asked if such a proposal is included in the president’s agenda for the 31st ASEAN summit in November, Ambassador Marciano Paynor, director general for operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council, said Tuesday that the subject is “still under discussions.”

He said Duterte, who chairs this year’s ASEAN meetings, may raise the topic “if the president says and that is his directive.”

“In fact, many of the things that will happen during the Summit will still be discussed during the preparatory meetings,” Paynor said in a press conference in Malacañan.

In 2013, the previous administration filed a case, and won last year, in a United Nations-backed tribunal against China’s sweeping claims to over most part of the resource-rich sea.

The court said China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking fishing and oil exploration as well as by building manmade islands there.

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In the South China Sea, fishermen wonder where they can fish without angering China

Resource-sharing a ‘win-win’

But Duterte sought warmer relations with the Asian power in exchange for billion dollars’ worth of Chinese investments while moving away from Washington—Manila’s traditional treaty ally and China’s strategic rival.

Aside from Manila and Beijing—other ASEAN countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam also have overlapping claims over the sea.

According to Paynor, resource-sharing would be a “win-win situation and solution” for the maritime row that has dogged both ASEAN and China.

But he stressed that leaders must make sure that all parties would agree to the details of the deal.

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea. It is now one of China’s south China Sea military bases. © Reuters

“As always, the devil is in the details and sometimes, in the details, there’s one aspect that might not be agreeable to one and because these are consensus, it has to be threshed out,” Paynor said.

“So I’ll say, in principle, yes, of course, that is one objective of ASEAN,” he added.

Experts say a joint development in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China does not guarantee better relations as they cautioned that failure to spell out the “expectations” under such an agreement may spark another conflict.

The Philippines last April hosted the 30th ASEAN summit, which was highlighted by a watered-down communique that evaded reference to China’s maritime encroachment in the South China Sea.

Analysts earlier expressed disappointment over ASEAN’s apparent soft stance on China’s aggressive activities in the sea—with some saying this response could embolden Beijing to step up its incursion in the area, thereby undermining the bloc’s centrality.

READ: Experts: Joint development in South China Sea no guarantee of better ties



Recent Developments Surrounding the South China Sea

August 7, 2017

BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.



China’s foreign minister said talks on a long-sought code of conduct in the South China Sea that were first mooted in 2002 may finally start this year if “outside parties” don’t cause a major disruption.

Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers approved a negotiating framework for a code of conduct during a meeting at the weekend in the Philippines. The idea is to draw up an outline of the rules and responsibilities for the countries to prevent clashes from erupting in the contested waters. However, the initial roadmap doesn’t say whether the code of conduct will be legally binding or enforceable.

China had long been perceived as delaying negotiations with ASEAN so it can undertake and complete construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea without being restricted by any maritime code.

Wang said the start of talks may be announced by the heads of state of China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual summit in the Philippines in November if Beijing’s conditions are met. He said those conditions include a “stable situation” in the South China Sea and non-interference by “outside parties,” an apparent reference to the United States. Beijing frequently accuses the U.S. of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said countries locked in the sea disputes should “stop improving or expanding or militarizing any of their outposts.”

Wang’s mention of the vague conditions can allow China to delay or halt the planned talks for any reason. Differing expectations between Beijing and ASEAN of what the code of conduct should look like also likely mean the negotiations will be anything but straightforward.



ASEAN foreign ministers defied China’s steadfast stance and overcame their own disagreements to issue a joint statement criticizing Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the South China Sea.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems.

The U.S. and ASEAN claimants to the waters and islands oppose the work. They are wary of restrictions on ship movements in a key waterway for world trade which boasts rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil, gas and mineral deposits.

These tensions divide ASEAN. Some ASEAN nations want to stand firmly together against Beijing, while others who depend heavily on China for trade and investment are wary about possible retaliation.

ASEAN foreign ministers failed to promptly issue a joint communique after their annual gathering Saturday due to a disagreement over whether to include criticism, even indirectly, of China’s activities in the contested territories.

Then, in a surprise move late Sunday, they indirectly criticized Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the disputed waters.

They also in their 46-page statement referred vaguely to an international arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s historical claims to virtually all the strategic waterway.

The regional grouping decides by consensus, and last year Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.



The U.S., Chinese and Japanese navies ended a three-day search for a missing sailor who was believed to have gone overboard in the South China Sea.

Vessels and aircraft, including two Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy frigates and aircraft from two Japan Maritime Self-Defense ships, had combed roughly 10,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the sea west of the Philippines by Friday. The U.S. Navy said the joint search had demonstrated “the common bond shared by all mariners to render assistance at sea.”

The sailor was from the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, based in Yokosuka, Japan. He was reported missing on Aug. 1.

China accused the U.S. in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.

The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the U.S. considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.



Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will have the “confidence to conquer all forms of invasion” and won’t allow the loss of “any piece” of its land to outsiders.

His words were contained in a speech in Beijing marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

It strikes a similar note to other tough talk by Xi about China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors, including in the South China Sea.



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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


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

A Look at What Is Ahead Now That Brexit Talks Have Started

June 19, 2017

BRUSSELS — The talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union finally started Monday when EU negotiator Michel Barnier said “Welcome David” to his counterpart, David Davis, and led him toward a huge oval table at the European Commission headquarters.

As the negotiations kick off, here’s a look at some of the major issues the sides face.



They will first have to unravel the British from the EU, which will be challenging to say the least. That will involve everything from deciding what waters each side can fish in to how nuclear agreements should be renegotiated. Only when there is “sufficient progress” does the EU want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration. Britain hopes the two themes — divorce terms and future relationship — can be discussed in parallel.



While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 EU nations have had one message all along — in the words of Barnier on Monday: “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit.” It means clarifying the fate of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa, how to manage the border between Ireland and the U.K., and how much Britain will pay.



The EU says Britain can’t leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.’s share of EU staff pensions. EU officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.



The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other EU countries into Britain. May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants “frictionless” free trade.



Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months. EU officials have therefore put the realistic deadline at October — and at the latest November — of 2018. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship.

If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security. How bad that would be in reality is anyone’s guess.

Philippine City Bordering Disputed Sea Finding Fewer Fish, More Foreign Vessels

April 5, 2017

Voice of America

April 04, 2017 6:26 AM
By Ralph Jennings
FILE - In this May 7, 2013 photo, a fishing boat returns to their village in the coastal town of Masinloc, Zambales province, northwestern Philippines.

FILE – In this May 7, 2013 photo, a fishing boat returns to their village in the coastal town of Masinloc, Zambales province, northwestern Philippines.

Philippine fishermen along the front lines of a bitterly contested tract of the South China Sea say fishing stocks are declining partly because of unstoppable intrusions from Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese competitors.
The number of fish has fallen about 50 percent since 2010 off the coast of Masinloc, the Philippine city closest to Scarborough Shoal, contested by Manila and Beijing since 2012, according to Franklin Cattigay, the local Philippine Coast Guard commander.Map showing location of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

Map showing location of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

The problems in an already poor archipelago dependent largely on the sea may add pressure on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to cement a new friendship with China, following Beijing’s pledge of $24 billion in aid and investment in October, or to invite the U.S. navy back to continue joint coastal patrols against foreign vessels.

China effectively controls access to the 150-square-kilometer shoal, a prime fishing ground 198 kilometers away from Masinloc.

Boats from China, Taiwan and Vietnam use “illegal” techniques such as explosives and bright nighttime lights to draw fish said Cattigay .

“Vessels from China are roaming there and they are not authorizing the Philippines to go there,” he said as he gestured into the South China Sea just west of his outdoor workspace next to the major Masinloc fish market. “Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, they are all there.

“Nowadays fish is not [like] before, it’s fairly limited because of so many people using illegal fishing, most especially the other countries using super lights,” he said.

Declining stocks plus pressure from China have prompted many of city’s roughly 3,000 registered fishermen to fan out along the Philippine coast or try to make it on catches of smaller fish. Nationwide, millions of people live off the sea.

Just three 40-person Philippine vessels from Masinloc, a city of 49,000 people, regularly trawl around Scarborough Shoal, said a city government fisheries staff person who did not want to be identified. The city doesn’t tell them to stay away from Scarborough Shoal but a lot avoid it anyway because of the risks, he said.

China has two patrol boats at the shoal and bars Filipinos from entry, fishermen say. China began occupying Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcropping visible above the waves, in 2012 after a tense standoff with the Philippines that soured relations until Duterte took office in June.

China claims more than 90 percent of the wider South China Sea. Some of that claim clashes with a Philippine exclusive economic zone from Masinloc’s Luzon Island south to Palawan.

Taiwan also calls the whole 3.5 million-square-kilometer resource-rich sea its own. Vietnam has a smaller claim, but like China has landfilled some of the sea’s islets near fisheries and undersea fossil fuel exploration sites.

South China Sea Territorial Claims

South China Sea Territorial Claims

Vietnamese fishing boats have been seen near the Philippine coast about 48 km offshore, the city staff person said.

“Two hours into the sea are Vietnamese, five boats finding octopus and fish, two hours, there,” said Roy Sevilla, 34, a Masinloc fisherman of 20 years as he pointed northwest from his boat moorage under a dilapidated pier.

Other people along the clear waters and mangrove tree-lined coasts of Masinloc work in groups to gut, dry and sell fish just a few inches long rather than prizes such as tuna or lapu lapu. On Tuesday, vendors at the public market were selling mainly small squid and eels.

Fishing closer to the coast of the city northwest of Manila fetches just three tons of fish per trip, down from the 10 to 15 tons he would expect from Scarborough Shoal, veteran fisherman Butch Ortega said.

“We have the Chinese patrol, so we cannot go,” said Ortega as he stood knee deep in the water tending to a boat.

Duterte’s engagement with China, he believes, has not covered access to Scarborough.

Last month the president said his country had no way of fighting China if it went ahead with plans reported by Chinese media to build a monitoring station on the shoal. He also has not moved on a proposal announced last year to declare the shoal a marine sanctuary.

From May through August, Beijing is scheduled to declare a fishing moratorium over much of the sea. Masinloc locals say they’re unlikely to observe it and that China does not now turn their boats away from disputed tracts outside the shoal.

But Chinese naval, coast guard and fishing vessels may overwhelm the sea in ways that Southeast Asian claimants cannot “hope to match,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of American think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

FILE - Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea, Sept. 23, 2015.

FILE – Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea, Sept. 23, 2015.

The Philippines, the island of Borneo and the Natuna Islands of Indonesia would feel Chinese enforcement of the moratorium, Poling said. Malaysia and Brunei compete with China for rights to tracts of the sea north of Borneo.

“They’ll be swamping waters off the coast of Borneo and off the Natunas and then they’ll also presumably be pushing the Philippines out of places like the Scarborough Shoal,” he said. “What the Chinese want here is for the Southeast Asians to just stop resisting, just accept the new world order in Asia centered around China and China’s historic rights.”

An association of fishing boats from Zambales province, including Masinloc, have drafted a resolution to Duterte, the coast guard commander said. They want the president to let U.S. naval vessels resume helping the Philippines, which is militarily weaker than China, patrol the coastlines.

The coast guard alone lacks resources to patrol for foreign boats, he said, advocating more help from Washington. Filipino fisherman also use illegal techniques to catch fish, he added.

A stronger friendship with China may generate more aid and investment for the Philippines, analysts in Manila say, but may ultimately anger Filipinos who want their leader to safeguard national territory.


 (Philippine Star)

 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles


 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)


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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

Anger burns on Vietnam’s poisoned coast a year after spill — “The big fish are all dead” — Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster

April 4, 2017


An employee poses with what he says are contaminated decomposed shrimps at a frozen food storage facility in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

“The big fish are all dead,” complained 50 year-old Mai Xuan Hoa, picking small fish from a net as he tried to rebuild his livelihood a year after Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.

Sea life began washing up on April 6, 2016 near a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp. Within weeks, more than 200 km (125 miles) of coast had been sullied by the accidental release of chemicals including cyanide, phenols and iron hydroxide.

Along the coast, the recovery is slow and anger endures.

“Where we caught 10 fish in the past, now we will only catch one or two,” Hoa said.

Locals says thousands of fishermen have simply given up and gone to look for work elsewhere. Tourists are wary of beaches that have lost their pristine reputation and businesses are struggling.

But the wider impact could be even greater after protests over the spill encouraged a wave of activism that has pushed environmental issues up the agenda for a communist government that now promises greater scrutiny of investments.

“First, people were angry with Formosa for polluting Vietnam’s environment,” said priest and activist Dang Huu Nam.

“Now, they are angry with the unclear responses and solutions of some provincial authorities over fixing the disaster.”

More than 40,000 jobs were directly affected in four provinces dependent on fishing and tourism. Across the country, a quarter of a million workers felt the impact, according to the labor ministry.

After months of rallies and an outpouring of anger not seen in four decades of Communist Party rule, Formosa agreed to pay $500 million in compensation.

The Hanoi government and the provinces have now declared the sea clean and the seafood safe. But while no official figures are available, fishermen say fish stocks have yet to recover.


On a beach in Ha Tinh province, Hoa and two other fishermen’s catch for the day was barely enough to fill a bucket. Compensation payments of 17.4 million dong ($765) would not last them long, they said.

Despite the reduced supply, merchants say fish prices are now a quarter of what they were because of fears of continued contamination.

Many fishermen have simply abandoned their boats.

Some 3,000 boats were affected in Quang Tri province alone, said Nguyen Truong Khoa, deputy director of the local environment department in the province, south of Ha Tinh.

“It will take a long time to recover completely,” he said.

Tourists are also still wary of this stretch of coast.

Once bustling, the Ky Hoa seafood restaurant on the central beach of Cua Viet is empty. Dust settles on chairs and tables.

“It’s like the place is dying,” said owner Mai Ngoc Ky.

The central government says half the compensation money has been paid out, but many complain about the wait.

“If things continue like this we will soon be bankrupt,” said seafood trader Nguyen Viet Long.

Vietnam’s environment ministry did not respond to a written request for comment on the aftermath of the disaster and on when Formosa would be allowed to start operations.

Neither Ha Tinh province nor Formosa gave Reuters permission to visit the $11 billion plant.


Eleven officials have been named and shamed over the spill.

The government says the steel plant has now addressed 51 out of 53 violations identified in an investigation into the accident, but it will only restart when it can do so safely.

Formosa hopes to get approval for trial runs soon, with the aim of starting commercial steel production by the end of the year, nearly a year behind schedule.

“We remember the lessons we’ve learned, and we’re moving forward,” said Chang Fu-ning, an executive vice president of the company.

Formosa has promised to invest another $350 million at the mill, including in a more modern ‘dry’ coking system which does not use water as a coolant but is more expensive.

Formosa’s use of the ‘wet’ coking system, which generates more waste, was highlighted as one of the failures in the government report. The company said it was still using the dirtier process, but that it had until 2019 to switch.

Formosa wants to make steel mill the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia, exactly the sort of investment the government seeks so as to maintain annual growth rates of over 6 percent.

But the activist movement roused by the spill has made Vietnamese – and the government – more attuned to environmental risks.

In February, the government said it would not grant licenses to any projects with a high pollution risk. Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung asked the environment ministry to revise rules and to intensify inspection and supervision of projects at the investment and construction stage.

When people in southern Vietnam reported a bad smell and dust from a new mill being started by Hong Kong-listed Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd last month, the Hau Giang province was quick to investigate.

The company has since promised measures to reduce pollution.

“People are worried about not only their future but also their children’s future. They will continue to fight until their rights are satisfied and protected,” said activist Nam.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Hanoi bureau; Editing by Lincoln Feast)