Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

Filipino officials: Chinese navy stalked Philippine area — Philippine Government not telling all they know?

August 22, 2017
 / 08:04 PM August 22, 2017

In this Friday, April 21, 2017 photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, two Filipino security officials said China has deployed its navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them in an emerging territorial issue that the government stated was quickly resolved. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines- China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said Tuesday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors’ friendlier ties.

Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.

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The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country’s territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has in recent days refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.

A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China “is concerned that we will build” structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.

A government security report seen by the AP says Chinese navy ships with bow numbers 504, 545 and 168, a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 46115, and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay. Its nearest sandbar is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu’s southwest coast, the report said.

Philippine troops and villagers based at Thitu call it Pag-asa -Tagalog for hope – while the Chinese call the island Zhongye Dao.

The Chinese military presence near Thitu sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island’s 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters.

“In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China,” Carpio said in a statement over the weekend.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have the constitutional duty to defend and protect Philippine territory.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” Carpio said. “If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty binds the allies to come to the aid of each other when attacked.

Cayetano, however, told reporters Tuesday that the issue has been diplomatically resolved and denied that China has invaded Sandy Cay.

“Let me assure you, there is no more problem in that area,” Cayetano told reporters, declining to provide details. “But it is not true that there was an attempt to invade or seize it.”

Much-friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing under Duterte have allowed both governments to manage their disputes better. “If our relationship with our neighbors isn’t this good, the situation in the West Philippine Sea will be much, much worse,” Cayetano said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Duterte told reporters over dinner late Monday that he has been assured by China’s ambassador in Manila, Zhao Jianhua, and the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures on Sandy Cay.

“They’re not invading,” ABS-CBN TV network quoted Duterte as saying. “They are just there but they are not claiming anything.”

One of the Philippine security officials said the military has been monitoring the Chinese presence at Sandy Cay but added it was difficult to check if Beijing’s ships were still there due to bad weather in the remote offshore region.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/159933/china-west-philippine-sea-west-philippine-sea-sandy-cay-uninhabited-sandbars#ixzz4qURzNHPe
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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (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.

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Struggles With Question of Sovereignty, International Law Over Sandy Cay as China Watches

August 22, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with the Malacañang Press Corps at the Malago Clubhouse, Malacañang Park in Manila on August 21, 2017. PPD

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed the warning of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the Chinese are invading a sandbar near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio earlier urged the Philippine government to act on China’s “invasion” of Sandy Cay, located some 2.5 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island and well within the island’s 12-nautical mile territorial waters.

READ: Carpio: China virtually occupying Sandy Cay

The president, on the other hand, said that there is no reason to defend the sandbar as China was only patrolling the area.

“Why should I defend a sandbar and kill the Filipinos because of a sandbar?” Duterte told reporters Monday night.

Duterte added that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua assured him that Beijing will not be building facilities in the area.

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Sandy Cay

“Hindi nga na-invade eh. Hindi naman totoo iyong sinasabi ni ano — they are just there but they are not claiming anything,” Duterte said.

Carpio called on Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to protest the invasion of Philippine territory of China as it reportedly has two frigates, a coast guard vessel and two military fishing boats around Sandy Cay.

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File photo

RELATED: Photos confirm Chinese flotilla near Pag-asa

The SC justice stressed that Duterte and Cayetano both vowed to the Filipino people that they will not concede a single inch of Philippine territory to China.

Duterte, however, does not see any reason why China would occupy the sandbar near the Manila-claimed island.

“Why would they risk invading a sandbar and get into a quarrel with us? Ano ang makuha nila?” he said.

Carpio earlier explained that Sandy Cay was discussed in the final ruling of an international tribunal which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

Located between Pag-asa Island and Zamora Reef, Sandy Cay is a disappearing sandbar — appearing only for a few months before it disappears.

“Apparently, because of China’s dredging in Subi Reef, pulverized corals drifted and gathered at Sandy Cay and made it permanently above water at high-tide. As a high-tide elevation, Sandy Cay is now land or territory capable of sovereign ownership with its own territorial sea and territorial airspace,” Carpio said.

Satellite imagery released by Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last week confirmed reports that Chinese vessels had been operating near Pag-asa Island.

RELATED: Cayetano defends Chinese presence near Pag-asa

The think tank said that the presence of Chinese ships in the area may be an indication that Beijing is discouraging Manila from its planned construction on Pag-asa.

“It is important to note that ownership of the territorial waters in which these ships are operating is still legally disputed. Subi was a low-tide elevation before China built an artificial island on it,” AMTI said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/22/1731595/duterte-why-defend-disputed-sandbar

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (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.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Concerned About Chinese Incursions in Philippine Waters of the South China Sea

August 19, 2017
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines – The military wants to bring Chinese incursions at sandbars in the West Philippine Sea before the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We will work to clarify all of these things and there is a mechanism that is built-in in our current relationship, which is called the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, that has already been initiated before,” Padilla said.

The BCM was formed by the Philippines and China to address concerns in the disputed seas.

The first BCM was held last May in Guiyang, China – the venue chosen by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Through the BCM, both parties can raise issues surrounding the maritime claims in a bid to avoid violent confrontation between the two countries.

“It would be best to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) what happened to this mechanism because this is the proper forum to address those issues,” Padilla said.

Earlier, the DFA reported that a second meeting is forthcoming within the year where the Philippines can further bring its concerns.

Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana has said the BCM is a good venue to talk about possible areas of cooperation aimed at building mutual trust and confidence between Philippines and China.

Padilla said the AFP is in the process of looking further into the report of Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano who exposed the presence of Chinese boats in the area.

“We did receive word from the camp of Congressman Alejano regarding the presence of Chinese ships. There have been a lot of fisherman from our side who have been fishing in our waters over there,” Padilla said.

“And I think the bone of contention was regarding the presence of some of our fisherman in some of those areas because the Chinese are there also,” he said.

Alejano claimed there are two Chinese naval vessels, two fishing ships and a Chinese Coast Guard ship operating around Pag-asa Island since Aug. 12.

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File Photo

He added the Chinese have a sinister plan to occupy the sandbars in the area.

Padilla however assured the public that the matter is now being addressed but he has yet to confirm the number of ships spotted in the area.

The AFP’s Western Mindanao Command has been tasked to check out the report to ensure the Filipino fisherman are “well and protected.”

“Now, we will file our ongoing and continuing protest for any of these movements, and the foreign affairs department will see to that,” Padilla added.

“We file diplomatic protest whenever we have sightings close to our areas. Especially this one,” he said.

As this developed, the US government is set to donate an unmanned radar blimp to the Philippine Navy to enhance its intelligence gathering and disaster response operations.

US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski will hand over the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) – a self-sustained, unmanned lighter-than-air systems – to Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado on Monday.

The turnover ceremony will be held at the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales.

In a statement, the US embassy said the radar is expected to enhance the Navy’s capability in maritime intelligence surveillance reconnaissance by effectively detecting maritime and air traffic within the country’s coastal waters using sensors.

It will also be utilized in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

The TARS also includes a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind, speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system. – Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude, Helen Flores

South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

Updated 11:32 PM ET, Mon August 14, 2017

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN)When it comes to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s leaders must feel very lonely these days.

Their fellow Southeast Asian claimants have either reversed course after years of escalating tensions with Beijing, or are keeping their heads down and letting Hanoi take up the fight.
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In June, the Vietnamese government refused a Chinese demand to halt drilling by a subsidiary of Spanish company Repsol in an oil and gas block on Vanguard Bank—an area of the seabed that, as far as international law is concerned, is undisputedly Vietnam’s.
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Now Vietnam could be on the hook to Repsol for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will have a hard time convincing other companies that any of its offshore contracts are a smart bet.
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Repsol didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said its oil and gas activities take place in waters entirely within its sovereign rights.
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Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html
Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea 03:29

Deafening silence

How did Vietnam’s neighbors and the international community respond to this act of bullying by China? With deafening silence.
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After pushing back against Chinese coercion for years, the Philippines has turned defeatist under the year-old government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Manila now appears eager to trade silence regarding its maritime claims for economic carrots from Beijing.
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Malaysia, whose government is embroiled in corruption allegations and is barreling toward political crisis in the next general election, has little appetite for confrontation with China, an important benefactor.
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And Indonesia is happy to occupy a middle ground, resisting at the margins when it comes to Chinese fishing encroachments in its waters, but uninterested in taking a more active role in the disputes.
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Even Singapore, which remains deeply skeptical of China’s long-term intentions, is keeping its head down after being made a diplomatic punching bag by Beijing for its perceived support of the Philippines’ international arbitration victory last July.
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Divisions on display

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The divisions within Southeast Asia were on full display during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Minister’s Meeting earlier this month.
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The Philippines, which hosted the summit, and Cambodia wanted to strip out anything that could irritate China. But Vietnam, smarting from the Vanguard Bank incident and convinced that China’s diplomatic softening over the previous year was just a delaying tactic, argued for stronger language.
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Its tactics got it singled out in a China Daily editorial, which slammed Hanoi for “hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building.”
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Late on Sunday, the group reached a compromise that reinserted several points from previous ASEAN statements, including concern over recent land reclamation and militarization.
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The comprise language in the communique was weaker that some previous statements, particularly the Sunnylands Declaration signed by ASEAN leaders and President Barack Obama in 2016.
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But it was stronger than the group’s last statement, issued by Duterte following the ASEAN Summit in April, and helped avoid a repeat of the group’s 2012 debacle when then-host Cambodia blocked the release of any statement at all.
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Modest victory

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Still, Vietnam had won a modest victory and received a measure of support, even if grudgingly, from its neighbors. But the victory was short-lived.
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The next day, Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sided with China, telling the press,“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. So why will you put it again this year?”
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It was a surprising break for an organization built on consensus. Here was the group’s chair publicly airing disagreements with the supposed consensus and appearing to back an outside power over a fellow ASEAN member.
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China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Manila on August 5, 2017 to attend the ASEAN meeting, where Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

One-two punch

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The one-two punch of China’s successful coercion over Vanguard Bank and ASEAN’s tattered consensus in Manila has left Hanoi exposed.
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That isolation, which has been building for months, helps explain why Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich arranged a visit to Washington on the heels of the ASEAN meetings.
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Following his meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon announced that the two had “agreed to deepen defense cooperation, including by expanding maritime cooperation.” They even confirmed plans for a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in the future—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
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Hanoi remains convinced that China’s new charm offensive in the South China Sea is mostly smoke and mirrors—a conclusion strengthened by its recent experiences—and that sooner or later its neighbors will figure it out too. In the meantime, it will look for support wherever it can find it.

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Includes video:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/opinions/vietnam-south-china-sea-gregory-poling/index.html

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (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.

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:

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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.

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CHINESE FM SAYS TALKS MAY START THIS YEAR ON CODE OF CONDUCT

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.

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ASEAN NATIONS CRITICIZE CHINA’S LAND RECLAMATIONS

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.

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US, CHINESE, JAPANESE NAVIES END SEARCH FOR MISSING US SAILOR

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.

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XI SAYS CHINA WON’T ALLOW THE LOSS OF “ANY PIECE” OF ITS TERRITORY

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

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

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.

Vietnam asks Indonesia to investigate South China Sea shooting

July 29, 2017

Reuters

JULY 28, 2017 / 9:43 AM

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has asked Indonesia to investigate and clarify reports that the Indonesian navy shot and wounded two Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi by telephone that the reported incident was “very serious … and not appropriate with the strategic partnership relationship between Vietnam and Indonesia,” the Vietnamese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Vietnam is deeply concerned about this incident and proposes Indonesia to quickly investigate and clarify the incident and inform Vietnam of the results and to stop repeating similar acts,” Minh was quoting as saying.

Earlier this week, a local Vietnamese sea rescue committee said Indonesia’s navy had shot and wounded the Vietnamese fishermen last weekend.

The Vietnamese boat was about 132 nautical miles (245 km) southeast of Con Dao island when the fishermen were shot on Saturday night, the Binh Dinh provincial search and rescue committee said on its website.

The report was pulled off the website the next day.

Indonesia’s foreign minister told Reuters the information provided by her country’s navy on the incident was different and said illegal fishing involving Vietnam had been a long-term issue.

Marsudi said in a text message she had underlined to Vietnam’s foreign minister the importance of the countries settling negotiations on their exclusive economic zones. She said the two would meet in Manila during a regional forum next month.

The Indonesian navy has yet to comment on the incident.

Disputes over fishing rights and oil drilling have stoked tension in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods is shipped each year.

China claims almost the entire sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

Although Indonesia says it is not a party to the dispute, it recently renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, asserting its own maritime claim.

The coordinates given by the Vietnamese search and rescue committee indicated that the shooting happened close to the area Indonesia now calls the North Natuna Sea.

Indonesia has sunk hundreds of mostly foreign boats caught illegally fishing in its waters since President Joko Widodo launched a crackdown on the poaching of fish in 2014.

Indonesia and Vietnam said in May they would launch a joint investigation after reports that Vietnamese coast guards had tried to forcibly free five fishing boats and their crew detained in waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Agustinus Boa Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kim Coghill

South China Sea: How Chinese authorities modified legal position after 2016 tribunal legal defeat

July 13, 2017

July 12, 2017 8:30 pm JST

Authorities modify legal position after last year’s tribunal defeat

Demonstrators at the Chinese consulate to protest China’s island-building in the South China Sea on June 12 © AP

One year ago, China suffered a massive legal defeat when an international tribunal based in The Hague ruled that the vast majority of Beijing’s extensive claims to maritime rights and resources in the South China Sea were not compatible with international law. Beijing was furious.

At an official briefing immediately after the ruling, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin twice called it “nothing more than a piece of waste paper,” and one that “will not be enforced by anyone.” And yet, one year on, China is, in many ways, abiding by it.

By Bill Hayton

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The South China Sea covers about 3.5 million sq. km from Singapore to Taiwan, and is home to the region’s most intractable disputes, involving competing claims from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and others. The Hague tribunal last year backed Manila’s claim that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the contested waters. There was therefore no legal basis for its claim to all the marine resources within the “U-shaped line” encompassing the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes, which has been printed on Chinese maps since 1948.

China is not fully complying with the ruling — far from it. On May 1, China imposed a three-and-a-half-month ban on fishing across the northern part of the South China Sea, as it has done each year since 1995. While the ban may help conserve fish stocks, its unilateral imposition in wide areas of the sea violates the ruling. Further south, China’s occupation of Mischief Reef, an underwater feature that the tribunal ruled was part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, endures. Having built a vast naval base and runway here, China looks like it will remain in violation of that part of the ruling for the foreseeable future.

But there is evidence that the Chinese authorities, despite their rhetoric, have already changed their behavior. In October 2016, three months after the ruling, Beijing allowed Philippine and Vietnamese boats to resume fishing at Scarborough Shoal, west of the Philippines. A China Coast Guard ship still blocks the entrance to the lagoon, but boats can still fish the rich waters around it. The situation is not perfect but neither is China flaunting its defiance.

Political embarrassment

Much more significantly, China has avoided drilling for oil and gas on the wrong side of the invisible lines prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although the 2016 tribunal award is only binding on China and the Philippines, China’s behavior toward Vietnam has also modified. Its last attempt to move an oil rig into an area claimed by Vietnam, in 2014, ended in political embarrassment, anti-Chinese rioting and a major setback for Beijing’s regional diplomacy. Ever since, Chinese rigs have remained out of harm’s way.

Chinese structures on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratly islands in the South China Sea observed from a Philippine Air Force C-130 in April © AP

The ruling was long and complex, but the most important conclusions were, first, that the U-shaped line could not represent a legitimate claim on the resources of the sea. Second, it concluded that none of the Spratly Islands, in the south of the contested area, nor Scarborough Shoal, were full “islands.” Since they cannot support permanent human habitation in their natural state, they cannot be used to generate an exclusive economic zone. Put another way, the ruling means China has no claim to the fish, oil or gas more than 12 nautical miles from any of the Spratlys or Scarborough Shoal.

The Chinese authorities appear not accept this. They continue to intercept and intimidate Philippine fishing boats in the Spratlys. One sailor I spoke to described a tense encounter near the reefs late last year with a Chinese coast guard vessel. Its crew spoke only one word of English (it began with an “f”) and used it repeatedly. They even threw overboard the small bucket of fish that the sailors had caught for their own consumption.

In a more serious incident, a boat assumed to belong to the China Coast Guard on March 27 opened fire on a Philippine trawler near Gaven Reef, one of China’s newly built artificial islands. It was a potentially deadly incident, but not one that directly violates the arbitration ruling. It is still not clear exactly where the incident took place, but if it was within 12 nautical miles of the rock at Gaven Reef, it was inside the territorial waters of one of the claimant countries. Since the tribunal made no decision about which country (China, the Philippines or Vietnam) is the rightful owner of Gaven Reef, China can claim that it is within its rights to defend its territorial waters.

Authorities modify legal position after last year’s tribunal defeat

There are clear signs from both China’s words and deeds that Beijing has quietly modified its overall legal position in the South China Sea. Australian researcher Andrew Chubb noted a significant article in the Chinese press in July last year outlining the new view. Authored by Communist Party legal theoreticians, this new exposition of China’s claims comes in three parts: a claim to all the rocks and reefs within the U-shaped line; a claim to “historic title” to all the sea inside lines drawn around “close-together” island groups (that is, small groups of features within the Spratly archipelago); and a claim to non-exclusive rights to fish in places where Chinese fishers traditionally did.

International law

The claim to all the rocks and reefs is clearly disputed by the other claimants, but is at least asserted within the rubric of commonly understood international law. However, in the eyes of most non-Chinese observers, the last two parts of the claim are not: They continue to violate UNCLOS. The whole point of negotiating UNCLOS from 1973 to 1982 was to eliminate such “historic” claims. China ratified that agreement in 1996.

Nonetheless, China’s new position seems to represent a major step towards compliance with UNCLOS and, therefore, the ruling. Most significantly, it removes the grounds for Chinese objections to other countries fishing and drilling in wide areas of the South China Sea. Vietnam has already taken advantage of this by authorizing Talisman Vietnam to drill for oil at the very southeastern edge of the country’s claimed exclusive economic zone.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines told journalists in May that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had warned there would be “war” if the Manila government authorized drilling in the large gas field known to exist under the Reed Bank — between the Spratlys and the main islands of the Philippines. This threat appears to violate both the tribunal ruling and China’s new definition of its own claim. Duterte might consider why Vietnam is prepared to take such a risk and he is not.

Overall, the picture is of a China attempting to bring its vision of the rightful regional order (as the legitimate owner of every rock and reef inside the U-shaped line) within commonly understood international rules. Far from being “waste paper,” China is taking the tribunal ruling very seriously. It is still some way from total compliance but it is clearly not deliberately flouting the ruling.

What happens next will depend on whether the Philippines, and other governments in the region and those around the world that care about the rule of international law, will do enough to keep the region moving toward the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Bill Hayton is an associate fellow at Chatham House and author of “The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia.”

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http://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Bill-Hayton/Beijing-changes-tack-after-South-China-Sea-ruling

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

 (Contains links to several more related articles)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

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Commentary: Japan’s contributions to Philippine maritime security — Keeping the sea-lanes of communication open — Respecting international law — Even after China’s threat of war

July 8, 2017
Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. The South China Sea issue is expected to be discussed at the 20th ASEAN Summit of Leaders next week. Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP

The depth and breadth of Japanese support to the Philippines cannot be overstated.

In the aftermath of the Scarborough Shoal showdown in 2012, Japan readily provided patrol ships as well as diplomatic support. It has also assisted the Philippines in beefing up its Navy and Coast Guard.

Last year, Foreign Minister Kishida met President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao a month after the Arbitral Tribunal released its ruling on the Philippines’ case. They fleshed out mechanisms in strengthening bilateral cooperation towards a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea conflict in line with the stipulations of the tribunal award.

Kishida advised Duterte that Japan is willing to provide more patrol boats to the Coast Guard and lease training aircraft to the Philippine Navy for maritime reconnaissance.

In celebration of the first anniversary of the arbitral tribunal’s award, the Stratbase ADR Institute is holding a forum on July 12, 2017, entitled “The Framework Code of Conduct, One Year After Arbitration.”

The by-invitation forum will feature insights from Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Justice Antonio Carpio, Dr. Jay Batongbacal, former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, Dr. Ginnie Bacay-Watson and Mr. Koichi Ai, in addition to myself and Ambassador Albert Del Rosario.

Japan’s contributions to Philippine maritime security in support of arbitral tribunal decision

Japanese Prime Minister Abe met for the first time with Duterte during the ASEAN summit held in Laos. He laid bare Japan’s intent to further boost the search-and-rescue and fisheries protection capabilities of the Coast Guard through the provision of two 90-meter patrol vessels and 10 multi-role vessels.

Abe also promised to beef up the Philippine Navy’s capabilities for reconnaissance missions, disaster relief operations and transporting supplies by lending five TC-90 training aircraft to the navy. When Abe made a state visit in January, he reiterated Japan’s support for the Philippines’ capacity-building initiatives on maritime security. Hence, on 28 March 2017, Japan formally transferred the first reconnaissance planes to the PN.

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Japan TC-90 aircraft

These efforts are part of Japan’s strategic objective of solidifying the security partnership between the Philippines and Japan—both maritime and liberal democratic nations with shared common interest in the preservation of freedom of navigation and respect for the rule of law—amid growing regional uncertainty brought about by increasing Chinese assertiveness and worsening Philippine-US relations.

The arbitral tribunal ruling revisited

To recall, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) categorically ruled that upon ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), China’s historic rights to the marine resources in the South China Sea were extinguished. Also, the court affirmed that there is no historical evidence proving that China had fully exercised exclusive control over the waters and their resources surrounding the land features in the South China Sea. Furthermore, the tribunal asserted that the Chinese vessels’ presence in the high seas constitute an exercise of freedom of navigation and fishing rather than historic right. Overall, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines’ 14 out of 15 claims against China.

The three-month long stand-off between a lone Philippine Coast Guard vessel and Chinese civilian ships off Scarborough Shoal in 2012 was the single incident that brought Manila and Beijing very close to the brink of a shooting war.

Outgunned and outnumbered, the Philippines pulled out its lone vessel in mid-June 2012. This eventually gave the Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) personnel the free hand to construct a chain barrier across the mouth of the shoal in order to block the Filipino fishermen access to it.

In addition, the CMS personnel escorted the Chinese fishing boats that operate deep into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone to prevent them from getting arrested by Philippine authorities. This chain of events paved way to China establishing de facto control over the shoal.

Seeing the futility of thwarting China’s actions militarily, the Philippines resorted to legal means to resolve the brewing tension. The Aquino government filed a statement of claim against China in the PCA at The Hague.

Expectedly, China refused to participate in the proceedings, arguing that the only acceptable manner of resolving disputes on territorial and maritime rights is through bilateral talks with countries that are directly concerned.

Interestingly, Japan sent representatives as observers throughout the two-year proceedings. Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo has been consistent in expressing its unequivocal support to the Philippines’ determination to resolve the issue on the basis of international law. This is reflective of Japan’s determination to uphold peaceful resolution of disputes through UNCLOS and prevent any other country from altering the status quo in the South China Sea by force.

Japan’s new approach to defense, foreign policy

The participation of Japan in the Philippines-China dispute should be understood in the context of Japan’s evolving domestic and external security environment and Abe’s adoption of a proactive approach in international affairs. Within Tokyo, Abe and his cohorts of political elite acknowledged that Japan’s minimalist security policy—with its strong emphasis on economics and limited involvement in external security affairs—was becoming passé in the face of China’s expedient military modernization and North Korea’s improving ballistic and nuclear missile capabilities.

Hence, when Abe returned to power in December 2012, he urged Japan to assume a more proactive role in upholding the liberal international order with an emphasis on the security and governance of the maritime domain. Accordingly, on Dec. 17, 2013, the Abe administration officially adopted a new national strategy that would concretize Abe’s aspirations and seal Japan’s role as the defender of the post-Second World II liberal order in East Asia.

In line with this, Japan enacted “multilayered security cooperation” with its treaty ally, the US, as well as other security partners in the region such as South Korea and Australia which share the common interest of keeping the sea-lanes of communication open. Today, such shared interests underpin Japan’s cooperation with the Philippines.

Renato Cruz De Castro, Ph.D. is a trustee and program convenor for foreign policy and regional security at the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute (ADRi) and a professor at the De La Salle University.

 http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2017/07/08/1717338/commentary-japans-contributions-philippine-maritime-security
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Peace and Freedom Note: The international arbitration court in the Hague ruled that China had no Sovereignty over the islands it built itself in international waters –– illegally.

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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.

Related:

 (Contains links to several more related articles)

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 (The Philippines should know that China has a nasty habit of not honoring agreements)

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 (Has links to several related articles)

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China’s coast guard monitors and regulates fishing in the South China Sea — which is not allowed under international law. When Philippine President Duterte told China’s President Xi the Philippines would drill for oil in the South China Sea — Xi threatened war….

(Contains links to previous related articles)

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Deepsea Metro I — Vietnam drilling for oil in the South China Sea in defiance of China

Philippines: A year of walking with China

July 5, 2017
As soon as President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year, he announced that his administration would pursue an “independent foreign policy.”

This piece is a part of a news analysis series on the first 12 months of the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte took an abrupt turn from his predecessor regarding his foreign policy. As soon as he assumed office last year, he announced that his administration would pursue an “independent foreign policy.”

Article II, Section VII of the 1987 Constitution provides that, “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”

It appears, however, that pursuing a so-called independent policy would mean appeasing China following the ruling of an international arbitral tribunal on the Manila’s complaint against Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

On July 12, 2016, the United Nations-backed tribunal based in the Hague, Netherlands issued a ruling invalidating China’s historic claims over the disputed waters. Beijing refused to honor the ruling and reiterated its position that it has a historic and legal claim over the South China Sea.

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Duterte has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping thrice since the issuance of the arbitral ruling. The first was during his visit to Beijing in October 2016 where the two leaders signed several agreements between their governments. They met for the second time in November 2016 on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in Lima, Peru. During their bilateral meeting, Duterte assured Xi that he would adopt a foreign policy that veers toward a China-led regional development.

A few days after the conclusion of the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, Duterte received a phone call from Xi to discuss regional issues and how to strengthen ties with the 10-member regional bloc’s regional partners. This follows a watered-down ASEAN chairman statement which failed to mention the international tribunal’s ruling or militarization in the South China Sea. The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship, is set to push through with the enactment of a code of conduct on the South China Sea before the year ends.

Last May, Duterte went again to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. The president, however, skipped the opening ceremony of the two-day forum. The Chinese president had pledged $124 billion for his Silk Road plan which could help developing countries like the Philippines.

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Duterte was able to raise with his Chinese counterpart the arbitral ruling during his second visit to Beijing in May but the president said Xi threatened that China would go to war if the Philippines will drill oil in the South China Sea. The Philippine delegation did not raise the arbitral ruling during the start of the discussions on a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea. China and Southeast Asian nations only settled for a “gentleman’s agreement” to prevent war or to keep the situation in the region stable.

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De La Salle University Professor Renato De Castro said that the notion of shifting to an independent foreign policy is rhetorical and without substance as it would mean independence from the United States.

“For Mr. Duterte, independence means separation from US but in exchange for becoming like Cambodia or Laos—countries that are deemed tributary kingdoms of China,” De Castro said in an exclusive interview with Philstar.com.

On October 2016, Duterte announced that he is cutting ties with the US, the Philippines’ longtime ally and trading partner. Days after the announcement, he clarified that the separation from the US is “not severance of ties.”

Duterte had expressed his intention to end the Philippines’ war games with the US during his first months in office. The first Balikatan military exercises under the Duterte administration was shortened, scaled down and focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response instead.

Dindo Manhit, president of the private think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, shared the same sentiment, noting that seeking new friendships and disregarding traditional partners does not improve the country’s ability to preserve national interest.

“Above all, the Philippines’ interest as a smaller country is to ensure that international law prevails. International law is what evens the playing field between countries,” Manhit told Philstar.com, adding that the best proof of this is how the Philippines succeeded in its arbitration case against China.

The Philippines must be willing to use the arbitration ruling to strengthen its position if the bilateral consultation mechanism with China will work, Manhit said.

“Without a willingness to use the ruling to our advantage, what will our country be able to bring to discussion?” Manhit said.

However, a bilateral approach in resolving the maritime dispute would mean that the stronger power would be able to use its influence and resolve the dispute according to its terms, according to De Castro. Duterte appears to have chosen China’s goodwill and economic largess over the Hague ruling.

“Appeasements means that smaller power unilaterally extends concession to a bigger power. The Philippines has already set aside the Hague Ruling and has degraded its alliance with the US to earn China’s good will and possibly, some economic side-payments,” De Castro said.

Manhit, however, noted that there is still room for policies to change or for events to change the decision-making of the Duterte administration as it concludes its first year. The government is highly urged to reconsider its current approach on the issue.

On the other hand, De Castro warned that the Philippines may follow the footsteps of Cambodia and Laos as a result of being obliged for economic reasons to favor China following its investments in the country.

“He (Duterte) wants the Philippines to be independent from the U.S. but a tributary kingdom of China… We will become like Cambodia and Laos, extremely dependent and subservient to China. Associate Justice (Antonio) Carpio used the term ‘filandization,’” [sic] De Castro said.

ALSO READ:

A year of Duterte’s dystopian vision

A year of accelerated spending—or so they say

A year of battling through traffic and train queues

— Graphics by RP Ocampo

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/07/05/1716362/year-walking-china

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China’s coast guard monitors and regulated fishing in the South China Sea

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UK to withdraw from international fishing arrangement

July 2, 2017

BBC News

Fishing boat

The government is to end an arrangement that allows other countries to fish in UK waters, it has been announced. PRESS EYE

The convention allows Irish, Dutch, French, German and Belgian vessels to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of UK coastline.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the move would help take back control of fishing access to UK waters.

But Greenpeace said ending the arrangement would not alone improve the future of the UK’s fishing industry.

The Scottish government backed the exit, saying it had pressed for the move “for some time”.

The London Fisheries Convention sits alongside the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which allows all European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets quotas for how much fish nations can catch.

‘Historic step’

Withdrawing from the convention, which was signed in 1964 before the UK joined what became the EU, means UK vessels will also lose the right to fish in waters six to 12 nautical miles offshore of the other countries.

Mr Gove said leaving the convention meant “for the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters”.

He added: “This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union – one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK.”

The industry body, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, welcomed the decision.

Chief executive Barrie Deas said: “This is welcome news and an important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone.”

‘Aggressive tactic’

But Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK head of oceans, said leaving the convention would not in itself deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry, and that for years governments had blamed the EU for their “failure” to support the small-scale, sustainable fishers.

He said Mr Gove needed to keep the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commitment to “re-balance fishing quotas in favour of small-scale, specific locally based fishing communities”.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth consultant Dr Tom West said the move appeared to be an aggressive negotiating tactic.

“As a country outside the EU we need to consider how we can best co-operate with our neighbours, rather than unilaterally withdrawing from all agreements in the hope that standing alone will make us better.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40471466