Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

6 Things You Should Know About China’s One Belt One Road Plan

March 24, 2018

China has a plan for your future and it’s called One Belt One Road.

China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project – consisting of the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land route to Europe, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route cutting from the Philippines to the Mediterranean – is a sprawling bureaucratic monstrosity the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) asserts will create a better-connected, wealthier global economy. The Belt and Road Initiative, as it is sometimes also called, requires China to invest heavily in infrastructure and development across three continents to facilitate trade for China.

The consistent injection of all this terminology – the belt, the road, the “ancient” allusions – into trade discussions involving China have left many in America with questions. Where the road ends, what the world looks like once China is done building its infrastructure, and what checks remain on Chinese hegemony of OBOR succeeds are all valid questions that China has yet to definitively answer.

From what China has revealed of its plan, however, One Belt One Road could significantly alter the geopolitical and economic landscapes of Asia, Europe, and Africa, in at least the following X ways.

One Belt One Road Is Mercantilism on a Global Scale

One Belt One Road is China’s plan to dominate world trade by building and controlling a network of roads, pipelines, railways, ports, and power plants to deliver raw materials to China and finished goods to the rest of the world. It’s a super-highway for Chinese economic dominance.

No automatic alt text available.

The long-term goal of OBOR is pretty straightforward. China wants to be the world’s dominant manufacturer in the 21st Century. It wants everything you buy in a store or online to be made, in part or in whole, in China, with Chinese labor, and for the profit of Chinese businesses. It understands that, in order to accomplish this goal, it is not enough for China to merely underprice businesses in Europe and the U.S. It must control not only the means of production but the means of delivery: the roads, ports, railways, and pipelines.

Control over the means of delivery has been a long-term Chinese goal. China already controls the majority of ports around the Panama Canal, the key to shipping between the Pacific Rim and Atlantic facing Europe. OBOR would create another route to Europe’s consumers, through central Asia.

The ultimate goal is to allow China to control the terms of global trade, rending aging Western-dominated institutions and practices dispensible. It is nothing short of reshaping the global economic order around the priorities of China’s leaders.

It’s a Bailout for China’s Economy

Economic growth has been slowing within China for years, putting more and more pressure on China’s government-controlled financial sector to fund projects that are increasingly uneconomical. The country is producing far more steel, cement, and machinery than it can possibly use. So China has built cities in which no one lives, office towers in which no one works, and roads that literally go nowhere in an effort to keep its population employed.

The massive infrastructure projects of OBOR are an extension of this. They provide the short-term demand for China’s production, staving off what many thought would be an inevitable economic reckoning and collapse.

Turning Everyone Chinese

Here’s a propaganda video produced by the Chinese government to promote “understanding” of OBOR. Notice that at the start of the video, the cute kids are all Chinese. As it progresses, the kids morph into south Asians, middle easterners and finally into blond Europeans. If you really want to understand what China is up to with OBOR, this video is the clearest indication.

It Could Significantly Hurt India

As the China Daily map shows, India is in a pivotal geographic location for the Silk Road Economic Belt – any major development to get to either Africa (through the Indian Ocean) or central Asia requires India’s input. The potential of a robust Chinese presence on the China-India border or in Pakistan, and a similar such presence in the Indian Ocean, has alarmed the Indian government, China’s main economic rival on the continent.

China’s construction of roads near the border already caused a major diplomatic dispute this summer. The Chinese attempted to extend a road construction into neighboring Bhutan against that government’s wishes, triggering Bhutan to call for India to intervene. India sent troops into the disputed territory, which China claims as its own, and forcedChina to withdraw its road construction project.

Outside of Bhutan, China is seeking to build the new Silk Road straight through Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. China is a close ally of Pakistan, which the Indian government often accuses of harboring jihadist terrorism. The Kashmir project is called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and its completion could give Pakistan (and, of course, China) full control of the territory. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied that CPEC involves any “territorial disputes” despite its location, while Chinese officials have accused India of seeing China as an “imaginary enemy.”

India and its allies in the United States have rejected this claim. Speaking following a trip to India, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that China must understand that, “in a globalized world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road.’”

He added that the project “goes through disputed territory … [and] that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate.”

India has protested less about the maritime trade routes China is establishing, as Beijing has yet to violate India’s waters. Yet analysts note that “China now has India surrounded, wrapped up by land and sea via its Belt and Road initiative (BRI),” and the Indian government appears to be acting with this in mind, abstaining from participating in major OBOR summits and instead growing closer to Washington.

Much of the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ Is Illegal

Xinhua, a Chinese state news outlet, describes the Maritime Silk Road as heading “from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.” What Xinhua leaves out of this statement is that China claims almost the entire South China Sea for itself – a claim the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague deems illegal.

China claims waters in the South China Sea within the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan, and the waters off of Natuna Island, Indonesia. This includes the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which belong to Vietnam and the Philippines, where China has spent the past three years constructing artificial islands and arming them to the teeth with military assets like fighter jets, advanced surveillance systems, and surface-to-air missiles.

China openly asserts that the Paracel Islands, known in China as the Xisha Islands, are part of OBOR.

“The Xisha Islands will soon be offered to more cruise passengers following the popularity of the Coconut Princess cruise liner’s new 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road route to the archipelago,” the Chinese government announced in 2015. “The cruise has been rerouted and, since Feb 7, re-branded as a Maritime Silk Road excursion, because more cruise companies are hopping aboard the concept of creating modern tours along the ancient sea routes.”

In 2016, the Hague court issued a verdict in Philippines v. China against the defendant, stating that all its construction in the disputed territories violates international law, as well as its actions against foreign vessels in international waters. Chinese officials announced they would ignore the Hague ruling and continue construction in the area. They have also increased the number of Chinese ships active in Philippine and other foreign waters, intended to intimidate fishermen attempting to use their domestic waters.

OBOR Is China’s Manifest Destiny

As The Diplomat has noted, the territory covered by OBOR “includes more than two thirds of world population and more than one third of global economic output, and could involve Chinese investments that total up to $4 trillion.” This includes the aforementioned South China Sea waters that no one outside of the Beijing elite argues rightfully belong under Chinese control. It includes territories like Nepal, Afghanistan, and central Asian states that at one point or another in history were closely tied to some part of China.

OBOR is designed to reconstruct an alleged “ancient” Chinese empire through infrastructure, trade, and culture. Chinese officials are quick to use the word “ancient” to describe both their claims in the South China Sea and the precedent for OBOR.

“For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit … has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road,” the state outlet Xinhua argued in 2015, introducing the specifics of the project. Of the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last year that “the islands in the South China Sea have been China’s territory since ancient times, and China has the right to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.”

Xi Jinping himself has said that the entire South China Sea was “left to us by our ancestors.”

On land, China has not made such sweeping claims. But its OBOR plans make clear it hopes to make the communities it touches more Chinese. The Chinese government announced in 2015 its plans to build at least 50 Chinese “cultural centers” across the “ancient Silk Road” meant to expand Chinese cultural influence. The targets of these centers will be as close as Nepal and as far as Turkey.

China will also be opening schools across the region. “More than 10 countries involved have expressed an interest in China running schools or education programs on their territory,” the government claimed in announcing OBOR last year. Countries in the Middle East and South Asia reportedly expressed interest in these schools.

If they are anything like the schools in China, they will indoctrinate children in communist thought, the greatness of Xi Jinping, and the illegal claims China makes in the waters surrounding it.


Beijing accuses US of ‘serious provocation’ after destroyer sails through disputed South China Sea

March 23, 2018

USS Mustin’s voyage near Mischief Reef prompts angry response a day after America announced plan to impose US$60 billion tariffs on Chinese imports

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 7:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 11:28pm
 Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

China accused America of “serious military provocation” after a US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island in the South China Sea – one day after the first move in what could develop into a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Beijing also announced it was staging a naval drill in the disputed waters on Friday, but said it was not targeted at any specific country.

The Chinese defence ministry said the USS Mustin had been “warned off” by two Chinese frigates.

An anonymous US official told Reuters that the destroyer was carrying out a “freedom of navigation” operation, passing within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, where China has built an artificial island.

Image may contain: sky

China H-6K bomber over Scarborough

It was America’s first such operation since January and came a day after US President Donald Trump announced it would levy US$60 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports – triggering immediate retaliation from Beijing.

“What the US is doing will damage the military-to-military relations and atmosphere,” said Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the Chinese defence ministry.

“It could easily cause misjudgments and accidents at air or sea. This is a serious political and military provocation

to China and the Chinese military is firmly objecting to this.”

He said the action would push China to boost its defence capability in the region.

 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water
China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

The warning came as Beijing announced it was staging a combat exercise in the South China Sea on Friday.

“According to the PLA Navy personnel department, this is routine training as part of its annual plan to improve combat capability, and it is not aimed at any specific country or target,” official news agency Xinhua reported.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, believed the US had deliberately timed the challenge to Beijing – sailing near its outpost – for the same day China hit back at America’s punitive tariffs.

“This is a gesture, and it’s a combination of economic and military pressure,” he said.

No automatic alt text available.

The PLA Navy drill could be a response to the US Navy’s “freedom of navigation” operation, Ni added.

“The PLA always have several contingency plans and they can quickly respond when they think a drill should be staged,” he said.

China refused to recognise an international tribunal ruling in 2016 that invalidated its claim over most of the resource-rich South China Sea. Its territorial claims are disputed by a number of countries in the region, and Beijing has continued to build islands and infrastructure in the disputed waters.

The Pentagon has meanwhile identified China and Russia as its two biggest military threats.

No automatic alt text available.

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




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




The importance of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

March 23, 2018

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, left, and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hold a joint press conference at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, special summit, in Sydney, Sunday, March 18, 2018. Leaders attending issued a joint statement with Australia that also calls for non-militarization and a code of conduct in the contested waters of the South China Sea, where China has become increasingly assertive. AP/Rick Rycroft

Katrina Clemente-Lua ( – March 23, 2018 – 3:06pm

On March 17 to 18, the Australian Government welcomed the leaders of the ASEAN member states for its first-ever special summit to be held in Australia. While the significance of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit cannot be discounted, it is puzzling that the meeting was not subject of a buzz.

More so, President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the special summit to attend the Philippine Military Academy graduation on March 18. As it was an opportunity for the president to have a dialogue with aspiring military officials, it was likewise of great consequence for the president to have attended the ASEAN-Australia as an indication of the country’s commitment to further its security and diplomatic ties with Australia.

Significance of ASEAN to Australia

Australia became a dialogue partner of the ASEAN in 1974. The summit, which signified the increasingly close relations of ASEAN and Australia, was an opportunity for both parties alike to demonstrate the value of each other’s cooperation and engagement.

Australia is among the major powers that have engaged with ASEAN as a bloc. Undeniably and as stated in Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, the stakes of Australia in the Indo-Pacific which encompasses the member states of ASEAN, are quite high.

For a start, Australia envisions an Indo-Pacific region that  adheres to a rules-based order, where all rights of states are recognized and respected and which would allow the free flow of trade, among others. With China’s rise as the emerging power, power shifts have surfaced. In balancing China’s growing clout, Australia depends on other major powers and even member states of the ASEAN.

As a regional bloc, ASEAN has become an anchor in the wider region. Even Australia’s major pacific alliance, that is the United States has anchored  its economic and security engagement in the Indo-Pacific. The foregoing clearly demonstrates Australia’s multilateralism approach in addressing uncertainty and unpredictability in the changing world order.

What’s in it for Philippines-Australia relations

While the Australia sees ASEAN as a partner in attaining security and cooperation within the region, the regional bloc has its limitations such as its impasse on certain issues. Such impasse or deadlock has raised concerns about a political divide.

It is in this regard that Australia finds significance and importance in engaging with the other like-minded democracies such as Japan, United States and India, which incidentally make up the “Quad”. Australia’s engagement with the three countries however, does not preclude it from working bilaterally with the Philippines.

Verily, the Philippines as a nation per se, and as a member of the ASEAN has an important role to play to promote and help sustain an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, considering its strategic location. For a start, the Philippines can play a significant role by maximizing the benefits of cooperation among the four countries.

The Philippines and Australia are about to celebrate its 72 years of diplomatic relations. In November 2015, a Joint Declaration on Philippines-Australia Comprehensive Partnership was signed by both States which underlined the increasing depth of its relations. The bilateral relations covered economic engagement, trade and investment, and growing people-to-people links, among others.

The question arises as to when its diplomatic relations could evolve and elevate into a level of strategic partnership.

The Philippines can find inspiration at the recent establishment of a strategic partnership between Australia and Vietnam. Under such partnership, the cooperation between states with regard to political, economic, defense, intelligence and security, education, science and technologies and people to people links aspects, has been strengthened.

The potential of Australia-Philippine relations cannot be undermined. As the comprehensive partnership covers their shared interests, it would not be too difficult for the two countries to develop a plan of action or programs that could further promote cooperation.

The looming issue on maritime security could be an ideal springboard. While cognizant of the changing political dynamics in the region, Australia has maintained its neutrality by maintaining constructive ties with China but at the same time, has opposed the use of disputed features in the South China Sea for military purposes and reaffirmed its position that the ruling on the South China Sea dispute between Philippines and China is final and binding.

Interestingly, the “importance of non-militarization and the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation” was likewise embodied in the Sydney Declaration.

The Philippines’ mutual cooperation with Australia, among the other like-minded democracies, provides a credible deterrence against any security threat.

Moving forward

As shown in the Sydney Declaration, the ASEAN and Australia have “reaffirmed their support to enhance trade and investment as well as resisting all forms of protectionism to improve regional development and prosperity”.

Likewise, they “have committed to a free and open market and have underlined the critical importance of the rules-based multilateral trading system.”

Other key issues tackled involved security in cyberspace and regional cooperation to counter terrorism, among others.

The ASEAN and Australia should not lose sight however of other challenges that lie ahead, which might not have been included in the declaration.

Finally, pursuing a stronger ASEAN-Australia relationship should not preclude countries such as the Philippines from strengthening its bilateral relations with ASEAN dialogue partners.

Otherwise stated, the Philippines should take a two-prong approach, that is, cooperation among the member states of the ASEAN and at the same time, looking beyond the ASEAN, such as Australia, with the objective of engaging external powers, whether bilaterally or multilaterally in pursuit of its continued peace and prosperity.

Atty. Katrina Clemente-Lua is an executive director of independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.


The Philippines: A Lesson in How Nation’s Lose Their Dignity (And Their Property)

March 23, 2018
 / 05:12 AM March 23, 2018

As a history teacher, I must object to President Duterte’s order to quit the International Criminal Court. With it, we lose our dignity as a nation.

The ICC is part of the United Nations, and the Philippines is part of the United Nations. Back in 1945 when the UN was founded, there were only three other Asian nations that participated. Our officials signed the original charter, hoping that we would become an upstanding member of this important organization. The UN and the Philippines both grew up together.

Since 1945, our soldiers have been actively involved in peacekeeping missions. Our dues have helped other nations, and during catastrophes, the UN has helped us. We have gotten advice from Unicef on Filipino child health and welfare. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea backed us up in the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.

Our government and nongovernment officials have become leaders in the organization. Carlos P. Romulo was elected president of the UN. We have been president of the Security Council seven times.

The UN and its judicial wing, the ICC, put pressure on nations to uphold human rights. We agreed to these human rights. We agreed to uphold the goals of this body. Yet now, President Duterte wants to pull out of the ICC, and put our good reputation in the trash bin. If he does not have anything to hide, why is he afraid? Why must we tear up our agreement with the rest of the world? Obligations are obligations and should not be thrown away, just because of the bad behavior of one president.


Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

No automatic alt text available.

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




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




People Seeking The Safety of Strongly Enforced Human Rights Once Came To The EU — “Today there is not so much enthusiasm.” — “the EU is a fair-weather friend to human rights.”

March 23, 2018

How much does the EU care about human rights?

Human rights groups have criticized the European Union for failing to uphold its values while tackling the migrant crisis. Where are its red lines? Conflict Zone meets European Parliament Vice President Ioan Pascu.

 Image may contain: 1 person, suit and text

Watch video26:00

Ioan Pașcu on Conflict Zone

Populist success at the polls across Europe. Brexit. Disunity. The European Union continues to face serious problems on many issues, including its handling of the migrant crisis that began in 2015.

But despite its humanitarian rhetoric, the EU has come under fire for its interventions, most recently in Libya.

In December, Amnesty International published a damning report, criticizing EU member states for “actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.”

Is the European Union failing to live up to its founding values of “human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity” that each of its members are bound by?

Red lines

This week on Conflict Zone, DW’s Tim Sebastian met European Parliament Vice President Ioan Pascu in Strasbourg and began by asking him why the EU spent so much time talking about human rights but did less to uphold them.

“It’s a question of values of a club,” Pascu told DW’s Sebastian. “They were posted at the entrance door, whoever wanted to become a member of the club would have to abide by them.”

Responding to the suggestion that member states were failing to abide by these rules, Pascu said: “I would agree with you that the attractiveness of the European Union has been affected by the crisis, by the conflicts around, and today there is not so much enthusiasm as there used to be in the late 90s, beginning of the 2000s.”

But Pascu dismissed that there was anything new in Greece’s decision in June 2017 to block EU criticism of China’s human rights record. China has a 51% stake in Greece’s largest port.

Philippinen - Präsident Rodrigo Duterte (picture alliance/ZUMAPRESS/R. Umali)The EU said its deal with the Philippines would “allow better collaboration … in political, economic and development issues”. Human Rights Watch has said that under President Rodrigo Duterte human rights in the Philippines is in crisis

Pascu disagreed too that the EU was failing to offer help beyond its own borders: “We see countries which up until now did not pay too much attention to the EU, being interested in relations with the EU, take India for instance, take Mexico for instance.”

But wasn’t this only driven by trade interests?

“Who is going to come only for values? Who is going to come only for that?” said Pascu, a former defense minister of Romania.

‘Not a great democrat’

On criticism of a recent agreement with the Philippines, Pascu questioned waiting for another leader: “Because they elected Duterte as president and Duterte is not a great democrat we should say, ‘no deals with you until you elect somebody else’?”

Human Rights Watch has saidPresident Rodrigo Duterte has “plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.”

“We do have to take into account much more than that. What if we don’t have such a treaty with Philippines tomorrow when they elect somebody else than Duterte?” said Pascu.

On the EU’s statements championing human rights, Pascu said: “It does not mean that the world revolves around only about one action or one leader, and then we have to give up everything else because that leader is not a democrat.”

Zitattafel - Conflict Zone: Ioan Pascu

So does it have limits in its dealings with other countries?

“We do have red lines … In February this parliament was very critical to the human rights records of Egypt.”

The European Parliament issued a statement in February condemning Egypt’s use of the death penalty.

In January, the former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, said “the EU is a fair-weather friend to human rights: emphasizing them when there’s little risk, de-emphasizing them when interests come into play – often when it is in the interest of individual member states not to raise issues, primarily for commercial reasons […].”

Pascu, a European Parliament vice president since 2014, questioned this view as too generalized: “Not everything in the European Union is bad. Not everything in the European Union, equally, is not to be criticized. So that’s the way we move forward.”

Spanien Katalonien Unabhängigkeits-
Referendum Poilzei schreitet ein (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Fernandez)“This argument has been made by all the separatists [in Catalonia], that it was police brutality,” Ioan Pascu told Conflict Zone. Human Rights Watch said that Spanish police had used excessive force during Catalonia’s independence referendum

‘Violence can be provoked’

But if there are many matters of division within the Union, one moment of recent unity has arguably been its silence over Spain and Madrid’s response to Catalonia’s failed independence bid.

Human Rights Watch said the Spanish police had used excessive force as they tried to stop the referendum in Catalonia.

Pascu told DW’s Tim Sebastian: “I side with the [Spanish] government because the government has the responsibility to make their constitution respected by their citizens. If that happens in another country the same situation will happen. Why do you think that these separatists have not been supported in Europe?”

However, Pascu insisted that support for Spain was not about the country’s importance to the EU: “It’s the symbolism of it. If you let these things happen and go around, then you never have the member states existing in the European Union.”

And if there was more violence in Spain over an independence vote?

“Sometimes violence can be provoked. Sometimes it can,” said Pascu.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines urges ending current ouster efforts against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno — “Duterte wants her out so she’s out.”

March 23, 2018


The 40,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines insisted that the Supreme Court should junk the petition for quo warranto against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as she can only be ousted through impeachment.  The STAR/Boy Santos

Kristine Joy Patag ( – March 23, 2018 – 2:14pm


MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines is the latest to ask the Supreme Court to junk the petition for quo warranto against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The 40,000-strong IBP on Friday asked the SC to allow their opposition-in-intervention against Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition that seeks the nullification of Sereno’s appointment as chief justice.
The IBP, through its president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, argued that Sereno could only be removed through impeachment as stated by the 1987 Constitution.
“[T]he Constitution admits of no other mode of removal of impeachable officers for impeachable offenses is clear from the text of Article XI, Section 2,” the IBP said.
The said provision of the Constitution provides that the “President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Calida sought the SC to nullify Sereno’s appointment in 2012 as chief justice, arguing that Sereno “flunked the test of integrity” when she failed to meet the Judicial and Bar Council’s requirement for submission of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
On Thursday, two groups also filed their motions urging the high court to dismiss Calida’s petition.
READ: Makabayan bloc to oppose Calida’s ouster plea vs Sereno | Petitioners question timing of Calida’s ouster plea

‘Sereno deemed qualified by JBC, president’


The group of lawyers also stressed that Sereno was deemed qualified for a position at the high court by the JBC, mandated by the Constitution to screen applicants for the bench, twice.
“The first being her appointment as an Associate Justice in 2010 and the second being her appointment as Chief Justice in 2012. Both instances are deliberate exercises of specific constitutional power, the parameters of which are defined by the actors, not by outsiders,” the IBP said.
“To impose the subjective judgment of an outsider to the process confined by the Constitution to specific actors would enable an intrusion that the Constitution neither defines or allows,” the IBP added.

Calida’s case


Central to Calida’s argument is Sereno’s failure to submit 10 of her SALNs when she applied for the position in 2012. During the probable cause hearing on Sereno’s impeachment case by the House justice panel, it was raised that the chief justice only submitted three of her SALNs.
But the IBP noted that the JBC accepted Sereno’s letter explaining that some of her SALNs could not be located by the University of the Philippines.
READ: Sereno to present ‘missing’ SALNs
The acceptance of Sereno’s letter and her inclusion on the short list presented to then-President Benigno Aquino III “carries the weight of its constitutional duty, which in the absences of any clear indication, as in this case, cannot be overturned on the mere subjective judgment of outsiders,” the JBC said.
Sereno has been on an indefinite leave since March 1. She said that this is in preparation for her looming impeachment trial at the Senate.



Peace and Freedom comment:

Without a hearing, it seems she’s been found guilty of something and now there is a discussion on how best remove her. This is more “extra-legal” Shinanigans in the Philippines. People in the Philippines tell us, Duterte wants her out so she’s out.”


All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

Record number of U.S. Marines to train in Australia in symbolic challenge to China

March 23, 2018


SYDNEY (Reuters) – The United States will deploy a record number of Marines to train in Australia, the Australian defense minister said on Friday, as Washington seeks to counter what it describes as Chinese aggression in the region.

U.S. Marine Pfc. Reuschel Ortiz (left) directs the distribution of ammunition at Freshwater Beach, Australia, during amphibious assault landing operations of Exercise Crocodile ’99 on Oct. 1, 1999. Exercise Crocodile ’99 is a combined U.S. and Australian military training exercise being conducted at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia.  DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel E. Smith, U.S. Navy.

“The U.S. military plays a vital role in underwriting security and stability across the Indo-Pacific, and the Force Posture Initiatives will be an essential component in preserving stability and security over the coming decades,” Defence Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

Payne said 1,587 U.S. Marines will spend six months training in Australia’s remote north, an increase of nearly 27 percent on its 2017 rotation for the program known as the Force Posture Initiatives.

The deployment, first introduced in 2011 as part of a U.S. “pivot” to Asia, has emerged as a key indicator of Washington’s commitment to the region under U.S. President Donald Trump and his willingness to counter Chinese influence in a region where tensions have spiked amid disputes over the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, an important trade route that is also believed to contain large quantities of oil and natural gas, and has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and air strips.

In a move likely to irk Beijing, the U.S. Marines will train with personnel from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, some of which also have claims in the South China Sea.

“China will monitor whatever the U.S. does and it would prefer that the United States not work with the Asian countries included in these exercises,” said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

“Beijing would like to deal one-on-one with Southeast Asia nations that have counter claims,” he said.

The U.S. Marines will also bring additional military equipment, including helicopters and F-18 jets, Payne said.

The military deployment also threatens to further weaken Australia-Chinese relations.

 Image result for U.S. Marine Corps F-18 jets in Australia, photos

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally with no claim to the South China Sea, has long maintained its neutrality in the dispute to protect its economic relationship with China.

But bilateral relations have soured in recent months after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said China was improperly interfering in Canberra’s affairs, an accusation that triggered a rare protest from Beijing.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait

Vietnam Courts Closer Ties with Australia to Check China

March 23, 2018

By Ralph Jennings

Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc participates in a signing ceremony with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Australia's Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 15, 2018.
Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc participates in a signing ceremony with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 15, 2018.
Vietnam is edging closer to Australia as it seeks broader international help in checking China’s expansion in the disputed South China Sea.On March 15, the two countries signed a strategic partnership to increase high-level dialogue, marking an upgrade to other partnerships in effect since 2009, the Australian foreign affairs department says. The partnership includes pledges to address “security threats,” and work together on “maritime policymaking.”

Australia and Vietnam reached the agreement as Vietnam seeks wider help in keeping the more powerful Beijing in check in the contested South China Sea. Australia is also looking for more inroads into Southeast Asia, where it has security and business interests.

“To the extent they’re both concerned about especially things like freedom of navigation and the East (China) Sea they have a shared interest with Vietnam in keeping the sea lanes open,” said Frederick Burke, partner with the law firm Baker McKenzie in Ho Chi Minh City.

Converging maritime interests

China and Vietnam dispute sovereignty over parts of a resource-rich sea that stretches across 3.5 million square kilometers from Hong Kong to Borneo. Taiwan and three other Southeast Asian countries have claims in the same sea.

Vietnam is pursuing friendships with multiple nations to protect fishing boats, offshore energy exploration and its sovereignty claims, analysts say.

“Vietnam has been looking for friends and support everywhere,” said Termsak Chalermpalanupap, a fellow with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute Singapore. “It has been diversifying.”

Australia, a long-time U.S. ally facing its own problems with China, belongs to a quadrilateral alliance of Western-aligned countries including India, Japan and the United States.

Heads of state from that group met in Manila in November to discuss how to keep the sea open. Australia and Japan called then for a “rules-based order” and “respect for international law.”

Vietnam and India upgraded their strategic partnership last year, and in 2014 Japan agreed to sell Vietnam six maritime surveillance vessels. This month the United States sent an aircraft carrier group to Vietnam, the first visit of its kind.

South China Sea dispute

Sailors died in Sino-Vietnamese clashes at sea 1974 and 1988. In 2014, boats from China and Vietnam rammed each other after China let its chief offshore driller place on oil rig in the sea.

Beijing has upset its rival South China Sea claimants over the past decade by building up small, disputed islets for possible military use and passing coast guard vessels through waters near the other countries. Australia does not have a claim.

Australia might help the quadrilateral alliance monitor the South China Sea, said Stuart Orr, professor of strategic management at Deakin University in Australia. The Vietnam partnership “provides Australia with a closer physical presence and another source of information about the region,” Orr said.

But both Australia and Vietnam count China as their top trading partner, meaning they are likely to avoid confronting China at sea.

“I don’t think they’re going to pull up an aircraft carrier like the U.S. did last week,” Burke said.

Uncertain US role

Vietnam may be keen on Australia because it can’t tell what the United States will do in the South China Sea dispute, said Trung Nguyen, international relations dean at Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities. U.S. President Donald Trump has not clarified a political and economic policy for Asia, scholars in the region say.

“With the (multicountry foreign) policy, Vietnam can build up some kind of counterbalance against China in the case of the absence of American presence in the region,” Nguyen said. “Even though Australia is a second-tier power, in some sense they can make up for the U.S. in some aspects when the U.S. is going back to an America-first policy.”

Australian business interests

Australia signed the partnership with Vietnam to try for tighter relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, analysts say. It sees the group of countries, including Vietnam, as key to pan-Asian security as well as a market for Australian companies.

The association covers about 630 million people, including fast-growing consumer markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam itself. Vietnam can “facilitate” Australia’s ties in the larger bloc, Nguyen said.

Australian firms sometimes bid on water management projects in Vietnam, Burke said. This month the budget airline Vietjet said it would launch flights between Ho Chi Minh City and the Australian city of Brisbane to help regional “integration and trade exchange.”

Trade between Australia and Vietnam in 2016 and 2017 reached $9 billion, making Vietnam Australia’s 15th largest trading partner.

On March 17 and 18, Australia hosted its first special summit with ASEAN with an eye toward “shared security challenges and securing greater opportunities for our businesses,” the Australian government said on an event website.

Vietnam scraps South China Sea oil drilling project under pressure from China — “There is only one real sovereign in the South China Sea.”

March 23, 2018


HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s state oil firm PetroVietnam has ordered Spanish energy firm Repsol to suspend its “Red Emperor” project off the country’s southeastern coast following pressure from China, the BBC reported on Friday.

Image result for Ensco 8504,, photos

It would be the second time in less than a year that Vietnam has had to cancel a major oil development in the South China Sea under pressure from China.

The move comes as Repsol was making final preparations for commercial drilling.

A rig, the Ensco 8504, was scheduled to depart from Singapore for the drill site on Thursday, the report said, citing an unnamed energy industry source.

The cancellation could cost Repsol and its partners $200 million in sunk investment, according to the BBC.

Repsol and PetroVietnam executives could not immediately be reached for comment. The Vietnamese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Red Emperor, known in Vietnamese as the Ca Rong Do field, is part of Block 07/03 in the Nam Con Son basin, 440 km (273 miles) off the coast of Vietnam’s southern city of Vung Tau.

The block lies near the U-shaped “nine-dash line” that marks the vast area that China claims in the sea and overlaps what it says are its own oil concessions.

The field can produce 25,000-30,000 barrels of oil and 60 million cubic meters of gas a day, Vietnamese news provider reported last month.

Repsol spent around 33 million euros ($41 million) on exploration in Vietnam last year, according to the company’s 2017 profit and loss statement.

The Red Emperor site is considered by Repsol’s top management as one of the company’s future growth projects.

Repsol, which has a 51.75 percent stake in the project signed a 384 million euro rental contract for a rig to start work on a Vietnamese site in 2019, according to the statement.

Reporting by Khanh Vu in HANOI; Additional reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez in MADRID; Editing by James Pearson and Richard Pullin

Philippine police shoot dead 13 as Duterte quits ICC — police say they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest

March 22, 2018


© AFP | Philippine police have said they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest, but rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher and accuse the authorities of murder

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine police said Thursday they had shot dead 13 drug suspects, just days after President Rodrigo Duterte moved to take the country out of the International Criminal Court over its inquiry into his deadly drug war.The suspects were killed Wednesday in the northern province of Bulacan, an official statement said, an area where police have previously launched lethal crackdowns on illegal drugs.

“Bulacan police are continuously and relentlessly implementing their intensified campaign against illegal drugs,” the statement said, adding there had been more than 100 arrests.

The war crimes tribunal, based in The Hague, last month launched a preliminary inquiry into Duterte’s bloody crackdown on narcotics, amid allegations Philippine security forces may have committed crimes against humanity.

Philippine police have said they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest, but rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher and accuse the authorities of murder.

The tribunal opened in 2002 to try abuses in countries where national courts cannot or will not prosecute. Manila in 2011 ratified the Rome Statute that created the court.

Manila gave official notice to the United Nations last week that it would withdraw, days after Duterte announced his country would quit the court over alleged “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against his government’s rights record.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said last Friday the Philippines was pushing back against “the well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community, to crucify President Duterte… by distorting the human rights situation in the country”.

The tribunal has urged Manila to reconsider its decision, adding that officially quitting the court requires a year’s notice and does not preclude its preliminary inquiry into the drug war killings, which have drawn international concern.

Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings at home, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation’s 100 million people.

He has frequently urged authorities to kill drug suspects while promising to protect police from legal sanction.