Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

South China Sea: Filipinos say it’s important to regain control

July 21, 2018

 

In this May 18, 2018, file photo, protesters display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest China’s deployment of missiles on the Philippine-claimed reefs in South China Sea in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines. Filipino officials say China’s coast guard has continued to seize the catches of Filipino fishermen at a disputed shoal.

AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo

 

Poll: Filipinos say it’s important to regain control of West Philippine Sea
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) – July 21, 2018 – 1:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — Most Filipinos believe it is highly crucial for the Philippines to regain control of islands and shoals it claims in the disputed South China Sea, where rival claimant Beijing has been increasing its power projection capabilities, a new poll showed.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

In a June 27 to 30 poll of 1,200 adults by Social Weather Stations, 87 percent of respondents said it is “important” for the Philippines to assert its sovereign rights on islands in the West Philippine Sea that China occupied.

Sixty-nine percent of Filipinos also said China is afraid to face any court.

Ties between China and the Philippines soured after the previous Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 with a United Nations-backed tribunal, which does not have an enforcement mechanism. The ruling favors Manila and was handed down a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

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But China vehemently rejected the landmark decision, which Duterte put on the back burner in exchange for warmer ties and Chinese funding for his administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.

Duterte has also been under fire over his apparent refusal to confront China, which recently landed nuclear-capable strategic bombers and installed missile systems on outposts in the contested waters.

It was also reported that Chinese coast guards have been forcibly taking the best catches of Filipino fishermen at the disputed Scarborough shoal, which is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

According to the SWS poll, 65 percent of respondents were aware of the reported Chinese confiscations of Filipino fishermen’s catch. Majority of Filipinos also knew that Philippines is unable to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in Philippine waters, and that China broke its promise not to militarize the area.

The pollster also found that the government’s seeming inaction against China eroded public satisfaction with Duterte, especially among those aware of the maritime row.

Meanwhile, 43 percent said the Duterte administration’s refusal to protest Beijing’s actions is not a form of treachery, while 29 percent thought otherwise. Twenty-eight percent were undecided.

The survey has sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national percentages, and ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/21/1835516/poll-filipinos-say-its-important-regain-control-west-philippine-sea#dUPhCoQQ29dWOea3.99

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

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South China Sea: Philippines Government Says It Has Isolated China

July 21, 2018

Contrary to popular notion, the dispute in the West Philippine Sea involves two issues: territorial and economic. The Hague arbitral ruling addressed the economic dispute by defining our maritime entitlements over features that we claim and at the same time quashing China’s sweeping historical claims over the entire South China Sea. The ruling, however, did not resolve the dispute over the overlapping territorial claims we have with Vietnam, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Brunei.

That was just part of a long online chat I had the other day with my journalist-diplomat friend, Elmer Cato who is now the Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila. Elmer is a personal friend from way back, when we both were working for local newspapers, before he joined the foreign service.

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

We’ve kept in touch through the years and I wasn’t surprised when he messaged me after reading my column on my concerns about China. Elmer said he reached out to make some factual clarifications that would hopefully help us arrive at an informed decision about the current approach of the Philippine government to address the dispute in the South China Sea. I do appreciate the fact that he reached out to share a perspective that most of us have not seen. I may not necessarily agree with some of what he said which I am sure Elmer respects, but if only to prove I could, at the very least, tolerate a contrary view and present the other side of the story, I am sharing parts of our exchange.

Elmer started by saying there was “nothing to worry” about the visit of the Chinese vessel and aircraft as these were covered by the necessary diplomatic clearances. All foreign aircraft or vessels must first secure and be granted permission before they could be allowed to enter Philippine territory, he said. Our own military aircraft or vessels also have to ask permission before they could land or dock in other countries. So far, China has requested and been given three diplomatic clearances. The United States has been given almost 250. Also given landing clearances were Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, he said.

I told Elmer I wasn’t worried about protocols; what I was worried about was the heightening presence, if not creeping invasion of China in the country. China can’t just invade us, he said, explaining that our dispute with China is limited to the West Philippine Sea. “We are trying to isolate that particular dispute so that it would not affect other aspects of our relationship,” he said, which is the same approach we have with Malaysia despite the dispute over North Borneo and the West Philippine Sea and also with Vietnam and other claimants.

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It was then that Elmer dropped what to me was a bombshell: “It is not only China that has been building in the South China Sea. The other claimants have been doing the same thing and have not only constructed but also fortified their respective military facilities. It’s only the Philippines and Brunei that have not.”

More bombshells: China resorted to aggressive action in the WPS during the previous administration and created a complicated situation that the current administration is now trying to untangle. “When the current administration took over, we already had lost control over those features that China eventually built structures on. We also lost control of Scarborough Shoal six years ago.” Another bombshell: the United States will not get involved in case we got into a fight with China over the WPS because Washington had said it will not interfere in a territorial dispute. Elmer said he used to support a hardline approach to enforce The Hague ruling thinking the Philippines has the support of the US. He said he was mistaken. Ambassador Sung Kim himself had said last April the US will not get itself involved.

He then asked: Should we be confrontational as some of us want? Will a shouting match with Beijing advance our interests in the South China Sea? Or would we be able to accomplish more if we sit down and talk with China and discuss how we could strengthen other aspects of our relationship such as trade, investments, tourism and people to people ties the way other claimants like Malaysia and Vietnam have been doing even as we try to build trust and confidence to allow us to find solutions to our dispute and prevent the situation from escalating but without setting aside the arbitral ruling or surrendering a single inch of Philippine territory?

Elmer had more to share, but space limitations force me to end here in the meantime. While I do not agree with everything that he said, he hopes this will help us see things from a different point of view.*

By Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

http://visayandailystar.com/2018/July/20/dash.htm

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

China believes that fishing and oil industries from the South China Sea may amount to trillions of dollars — What does the Philippines get?

July 20, 2018

NATIONAL papers talk about the Spratly Islands as belonging to us, well and good. What’s then all the protests about?

The Spratly Islands were, in the past, coral islets mostly inhabited by seabirds. They consist of 18 islands but, according to Chinese sources, the Spratlys consist of 14 islands or islets, 6 banks, 113 submerged reefs, 35 underwater banks and 21 underwater shoals.

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After so many claims and disputes of nearby surrounding countries, the international courts decided in favor of the Philippines. So, the Spratly Islands belong to us. However, claims and counter claims as to which country these islands belong to have not waned.

Aside from us, China insists on its historical rights over the islands, and so do Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. This is now what we call the South China Sea Disputes involving island and maritime claims.

What’s there to fight about? The Philippines, Malaysia and other countries began referring to the Spratly Islands as included in their own territory as far back as the 1970s. The Philippines started exploring the area in 1976 until gas was discovered. However, China complained and its protests halted the exploration. President Ferdinand Marcos then in 1978 issued Presidential decree No. 1596, declaring the north-western part of the Spratly Islands or the Kalayaan Island Group as Philippine territory.

The first Philippine oil company discovered an oil field off Palawan in 1984, which is an island province bordering the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea. These oil fields supply 15 percent of annual oil consumption in the Philippines.

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The whole contested area seems to parallel the crude oil output of Kuwait in case it undergoes serious exploration and production. It has been speculated to be the new Persia related to oil production. In addition, the abundant fishing opportunities in the area are strong incentives for the disputes. The South China Sea is believed to have accounted for ten percent of fishing harvests worth billions of dollars in the world resulting in clashes between Philippine and foreign vessels. China seems to believe that fishing and oil industries from the South China Sea may amount to trillions of dollars.

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Aside from these, the region is also one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Crude oil transported by sea passes through this sea way and accounts for more than half the tonnage of the world’s transported crude oil. It is claimed that the traffic here is three times bigger than that passing through the Suez canal and greater too than the business traffic in the Panama Canal. Oh oh, no wonder the scramble for ownership?

To add, the US and China are at odds over the area because of international rights to free access. The USA’s free access to this region is good for its economic and geopolitical interests.

So that’s the picture! The claims of six other sovereign nations will go on despite the Philippines’ being bestowed ownership by international courts. Vietnam is aggressive on this and so are several of the other nations. Now, we have protesters urging our government to fight China and all other nations expecting ownership of the Spratlys despite the international court’s decision.

Should we fight for our rights over the islands that have been naturally inhabited by birds since the beginning of our knowledge, or should we opt for peace by sharing the bounty of the South China Sea with all the nations aggressively fighting for this area too? In other words, should we opt for peace…or WAR?

I love you Baguio!

By EVANGELINE MURILLO

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Philippines: ‘True state of the nation’ — Philippines worse since Duterte became president

July 20, 2018

Lawmaker says President Duterte is taking the Philippines in the wrong direction… Culture of violence and impunity…

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) said that the country had deteriorated since President Duterte assumed the presidency more than two years ago.

Combination Photo, File
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‘True state of the nation’: Philippines worse since Duterte became president, says Alejano
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) – July 20, 2018 – 2:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — An opposition congressman on Friday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte who is set to deliver an annual national address on Monday, saying the Philippines has deteriorated since he won the presidency more than two years ago.

Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, meanwhile urged the president to attend to the economic concerns especially of poor Filipinos, who have been burdened by the rising inflation in recent months.

Despite some “laudable efforts” in the past two years, Duterte’s leadership is marked by worsening poverty, increasing levels of insecurity and ceding of the country’s territory, according to Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo).

Alejano assailed Duterte for creating a culture of violence and impunity in the Philippines, especially in the conduct of his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs.

“He claims to be an advocate of peace and order, yet his senseless policy has allowed fear to envelop the streets. Killings have multiplied while the public’s sense of security has degraded,” the Magdalo representative said.

He also hit the president’s economic policy, under which the Philippines has experienced record inflation rates, plummeting value of the peso and worsening economic conditions.

Robredo said that she would like to hear the president present his plan for helping Filipinos, especially the poor, cope with rising prices and for arresting the climbing inflation.

The vice president said that Duterte’s State of the Nation Address this year should enumerate the achievements and failures of the past two years.

“I think all people should be interested in what the president says in his SONA,” Robredo said in an interview with reporters in Naga City.

Aquino, meanwhile, called on the chief executive to use his annual address to tell the nation what he would do to help poor Filipinos and not to pursue hiw war on drugs and plans to change the Constitution.

He also urged the president to support his pending measure at the Senate which would automatically suspend the excise tax on fuel if inflation for the past three months exceeded official targets.

“I hope the president discusses in his SONA the solution to the rising prices. Suspend the excise tax on petrol to give relief to those families drowning in high prices,” the Liberal Party senator said in a statement.

Duterte has also led an assault on the country’s democractic institutions and compromised the checks and balances among the branches of government, Alejano said.

He also criticized the president’s vaunted anti-corruption campaign, saying this is a “farce” as he simply reappoints sacked officials accused of graft.

“Respect for the rule of law, due process and human rights have also diminished with law enforcement personnel getting involved in extrajudicial killings under the war on drugs,” he said.

As he continues to hurt his fellow Filipinos, Duterte meanwhile has been very gullible in following the wishes of China and compromised the country’s national security and interest, according to Alejano, a former Marine officer.

He also condemned the president for setting a bad example for the youth through his uncouth remarks and expletive-laden public pronouncements, attacks on religious beliefs and demeaning comments on women.

Alejano advised the president to start uniting and caring for Filipinos and honoring their dignity as a race.

He said that Duterte should also preserve the country’s integrity, set a good example to the youth and start building a good image on the Philippines in the international community.

Duterte is set to deliver his annual SONA before a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Traditionally, presidents use this occasion to enumerate their accomplishments in the past year and enumerate their legislative priorities.

DUTERTE SONA 2018GARY ALEJANOLENI ROBREDO, PAOLO BENIGNO AQUINO IV, RODRIGO DUTERTE, STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/20/1835227/true-state-nation-philippines-worse-duterte-became-president-says-alejano#pkArq1abQ7rsEOwG.99

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See also:

China won’t allow Philippines to fall into a ‘debt trap’: envoy

Tor:https://peoplestrusttoronto.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/china-wont-allow-philippines-to-fall-into-a-debt-trap-envoy/

and

Zhao: China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap

https://durianburgdavao.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/chinese-loans-not-a-death-trap/

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FILE Photo — Nora Acielo, 47, lies dead after she was gunned down by unidentified men while she was escorting her two children to school in Manila, Philippines, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Philippines to expel ‘undesirable’ Australian nun who irked Duterte

July 19, 2018

The Philippines blacklisted and ordered the deportation on Thursday of an elderly Australian nun at odds with President Rodrigo Duterte, calling her an “undesirable alien” who broke terms of her missionary visa by engaging in political activism.

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FILE PHOTO: Australian missionary Patricia Fox waves to her supporters before filing a petition calling for the review of her deportation case at the Department of Justice, after the immigration bureau voided her visa following complaints from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte about her participation in protest rallies, in Padre Faura, metro Manila, Philippines May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

The resolution was the second time immigration chiefs have sought to deport Patricia Fox, 71, who two months ago had been granted a reprieve by the justice department.

Fox has worked in the Philippines since the early 1990s and is a coordinator of a congregation of Catholic nuns called Notre Dame de Sion.

The 10-page order said her continued presence in the country “poses a risk to public interest” and she would be barred from returning.

She is accused of taking part in news conferences, labor-related fact-finding missions and protests calling for political prisoners to be freed, for human rights and land rights to be respected and for martial law to be lifted on the southern island of Mindanao.

Duterte has made no secret of his annoyance at Fox and has said he personally ordered an investigation into her activities. He said he refuses to hear criticism from anyone who is not Filipino.

Thursday’s order specifically referred to Duterte’s admission that he had asked for Fox to be investigated.

Fox is the latest in a growing number of people who have challenged Duterte and found themselves investigated, detained, humiliated, and sanctioned for offences that his opponents say usually amount to technicalities or minor infringements.

“That’s the law,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said of the order to send Fox back to Australia.

Local media quoted Fox as saying she was disappointed but would challenge the order.

Council of nations could determine the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea

July 19, 2018
 / 05:12 AM July 19, 2018

This is regarding Dr. Edilberto C. de Jesus’ piece, “Return to great power geopolitics” (6/2/18).

As an expatriate for 30 years, I sat as founding member of a public safety committee in one of the northerly territories in North America. From time to time, I had discussions with delegates of the Circumpolar Conference and Arctic Council that deals with iffy issues on what to do with the resources in the Arctic Ocean, which borders the coastlines of Russia, the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, Canada and Alaska, without resorting to war. Emerging military and economic power China, and past imperial powers like Great Britain and Spain, have expressed their desire to be invited on observer status to such collective bodies.

De Jesus seems to be nervous of China. But, to my mind, China is not the only one that makes Filipinos nervous. The United States, the superpower that did not sign treaties they perceive would curtail their liberty to navigate around the globe, is cruising their battleships around and flying their bombers over contested sandbars and coral reefs inhabited by migrant fish.

The Philippine claim of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea ought to be granite solid and unchallengeable. What are the basic elements, or the requirements, for establishing territorial sovereignty?

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Did we inherit those sandbars and coral reefs? Or were they ceded to us by a colonial power? Quasi purchase—and if so, from whom? Did we discover them? If we discovered West Philippine Sea, how did we exercise control over the sandbars and coral reefs?

If we view the world from a biblical perspective, no one owns a thing, even an iota of dust. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein.” Silver and gold “are mine,” says the Lord. Humankind is the delegated steward, but ownership belongs to Him.

To resolve the pestering issue over “ownership” of WPS, perhaps nations that claim a stake in the controversial body of water should come together and form a council of nations. Member nations must seek active partnership in the economic development of the region, rather than show their fangs and snarl at each other.

It is easy to start a war. But, how easy is it to stop a war?

Bob Gabuna, bob.gabuna@gmail.com

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/114706/council-nations-disputed-waters#ixzz5LgfU0ka8
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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US pledges $26.5M to Philippines for counterterrorism

July 19, 2018
(philstar.com) – July 19, 2018 – 9:59am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States government has vowed to provide $26.5 million to assist the Philippines’ counterterrorism efforts.

The US Embassy said that the assistance will be given to Philippine law enforcement agencies over the next two years.

“The assistance will include training, equipment, and other support to build comprehensive law enforcement capacity within a rule of law framework to deny terrorist operations, funding, and movement,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

The Philippines has been fighting Islamic State-inspired terrorist groups like the Maute group, which laid siege to Marawi City from May to October in 2017. It has also been conducting operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front in parts of Maguindanao and against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The US government will contribute $26.5 million over the next two years to boost counterterrorism support for Philippine law enforcement agencies.

Miguel de Guzman

The government has also declared the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist groups.

The aid from the US will also cover investigations and prosecutions on terrorism cases, as well as counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism.

“This support for non-military rule-of-law approaches to addressing terrorist threats will complement our sustained commitment to building the counterterrorism capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the embassy statement read.

This would not be the first time that the US provided support to the Duterte administration’s law enforcement efforts.

In 2016, Washington provided $32 million in training and services to Philippine law enforcement.

In the same year, the American government shifted its assistance away from law enforcement following reports of extrajudicial killings in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s crackdown against illegal drugs.

The US Department of State admitted that law enforcement assistance has been refocused to maritime security efforts and to provide human rights training to the Philippine National Police. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/19/1834905/us-pledges-265m-philippines-counterterrorism#leEeRuovf0GwVzKm.99

Philippines could breach U.S. sanctions if Russia arms deal proceeds

July 18, 2018

The Philippines is at risk of breaching sanctions imposed by the United States if it proceeds with the purchase of grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian firm, a deal that could test its longtime security alliance with Washington.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

A senior Philippine general familiar with the deal said Manila had agreed in October last year to a 400 million peso ($7.48 million) purchase of 750 RPG-7B rocket propelled grenade launchers from Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport, but the transfer had yet to be completed.

U.S. sanctions were imposed last year against any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

The law is designed to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its support for Syria’s government and alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Russia has donated assault rifles and trucks to the Philippines but the grenade launchers would be Manila’s first purchase of Russian weapons. The Philippines has long relied on the United States as its main source of military hardware and support.

If it goes ahead, the deal could add strain to a nearly 70-year-old security alliance that Washington has described as “ironclad”, despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s disdain for the relationship with the former colonial power.

Duterte wants closer ties with China and Russia and has ordered the army and police to engage with countries which do not impose conditions on weapons sales. Some U.S. legislators campaigned to block sales of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines in May 2017 because of human rights concerns over an anti-narcotics campaign that has killed thousands of Filipinos.

Duterte scrapped that deal, as well as the purchase of $233 million worth of Canadian helicopters, over concerns by the sellers about how they would be used.

A U.S. State Department official said foreign governments and private sector entities had been put on notice that “significant transactions with any of the 39 listed entities will result in sanctions”. Rosoboronexport was blacklisted in April.

American allies who buy weapons and equipment from Russia, the world’s second-largest arms exporter, would also be penalized and could see the transfer of those arms disrupted.

The State Department official declined to say what specific sanctions the U.S. could impose on the Philippines if it goes ahead with the deal with Rosoboronexport, while a spokesman for the Treasury Department said it “does not telegraph sanctions or comment on prospective actions.”

A senior Philippines defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters the United States has not officially notified Manila about the restrictions on Rosoboronexport.

“It’s still a go until we are informed,” he added.

The army general familiar with the deal declined to comment on possible sanctions.

Jose Antonio Custodio, a Philippine security expert, warned the Russian arms deal may affect Manila’s security relations with allies, not only with its former colonial master the United States, but also with Japan and Australia.

“If the Duterte administration keeps on elevating the military-to-military relationship with Russia, it may lead to push back from these allies given international sanctions on that country for bad behavior,” he said.

Editing by Martin Petty and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Reuters

China Is Winning in the South China Sea

July 18, 2018

The U.S. should respond more vigorously to Beijing’s violations of international law.

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Two years after an international tribunal rejected expansive Chinese claims to the South China Sea, Beijing is consolidating control over the area and its resources. While the U.S. defends the right to freedom of navigation, it has failed to support the rights of neighboring countries under the tribunal’s ruling. As a result, Southeast Asian countries are bowing to Beijing’s demands.

The tribunal’s main significance was to clarify resource rights. It ruled that China cannot claim historic rights to resources in waters within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of other coastal states. It also clarified that none of the land features claimed by China in the Spratlys, in the southern part of the South China Sea, generate an exclusive economic zone.

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In late July 2017, Beijing threatened Vietnam with military action if it did not stop oil and gas exploration in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, according to a report by the BBC’s Bill Hayton. Hanoi stopped drilling. Earlier this year, Vietnam again attempted to drill, and Beijing issued similar warnings.

Other countries, including the U.S., failed to express support for Vietnam or condemn China’s threats. Beijing has also pressured Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines to agree to “joint development” in their exclusive economic zones—a term that suggests legitimate overlapping claims.

Meanwhile China is accelerating its militarization of the South China Sea. In April, it deployed antiship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers to artificial islands constructed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. In May, it landed long-range bombers on Woody Island.

Chinese envoy to the Philippines Xiao Jinhua, right, said that the Philippines was not and would not be a province of China.  Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi Jr., File

Beijing says it can do as it wishes on its own territory. But under international law, Mischief Reef isn’t Chinese. The 2016 tribunal decision made clear that jurisdiction over a low-tide elevation lies with the country in whose territorial sea or exclusive economic zone it is located, and no other country can claim sovereignty. Because Mischief Reef is located in the Philippines zone, the Philippines has jurisdiction over it.

Sovereignty over the rest of the features in the South China Sea continues to be fiercely contested. As I wrote in these pages last year, international law on the responsibility of an occupying state in a disputed area is far from clear, so Beijing’s actions are at best in a legal gray zone.

While Beijing’s dramatic military buildup in the South China Sea has received much attention, its attempts at “lawfare” are largely overlooked. In May, the Chinese Society of International Law published a “critical study” on the South China Sea arbitration case. It rehashed old arguments but also developed a newer one, namely that China is entitled to claim maritime zones based on groups of features rather than from individual features. Even if China is not entitled to historic rights within the area it claims, this argument goes, it is entitled to resources in a wide expanse of sea on the basis of an exclusive economic zone generated from outlying archipelagoes.

But the Convention on the Law of the Sea makes clear that only archipelagic states such as the Philippines and Indonesia may draw straight archipelagic baselines from which maritime zones may be claimed. The tribunal also explicitly found that there was “no evidence” that any deviations from this rule have amounted to the formation of a new rule of customary international law.

China’s arguments are unlikely to sway lawyers, but that is not their intended audience. Rather Beijing is offering a legal fig leaf to political and business elites in Southeast Asia who are already predisposed to accept Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. They fear China’s threat of coercive economic measures and eye promises of development through offerings such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Why did Washington go quiet on the 2016 tribunal decision? One reason is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s turn toward China and offer to set aside the ruling. The U.S. is also worried about the decision’s implications for its own claims to exclusive economic zones from small, uninhabited land features in the Pacific.

The Trump administration’s failure to press Beijing to abide by the tribunal’s ruling is a serious mistake. It undermines international law and upsets the balance of power in the region. Countries have taken note that the tide in the South China Sea is in China’s favor, and they are making their strategic calculations accordingly. This hurts U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. still has a chance to turn things around. It must coordinate a regional and international effort to insist that Beijing abides by international law. Coastal states must be supported in standing up to any incursions into their exclusive economic zones, including through coastal state-initiated legal action.

There must also be greater pushback against Beijing’s claims that China is entitled to do as it likes on its own territory. In all of this, the U.S. will have greater credibility if it finally accedes to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. These efforts will be critical to defend a rules-based order against China’s bid for hegemony in the region.

Ms. Kuok is an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia and a senior research fellow at the Centre for Rising Powers, University of Cambridge.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-is-winning-in-the-south-china-sea-1531868329

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See also:

China won’t allow Philippines to fall into a ‘debt trap’: envoy

Tor:https://peoplestrusttoronto.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/china-wont-allow-philippines-to-fall-into-a-debt-trap-envoy/

and

Zhao: China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap

https://durianburgdavao.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/chinese-loans-not-a-death-trap/

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Philippines: Senator says federal form of government is not needed

July 18, 2018

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is proof that shifting into a federal form of government is not needed to empower the regions.

Drilon argued that the BBL would “give extensive power” to the Bangsamoro region, which proved revision of the whole Constitution is no longer needed to do the same throughout the country.

He said this as the bicameral conference committee on the BBL continues to polish the measure, while the current administration maintains its stand for federalism.

Image result for Franklin Drilon, photos

Sen. Franklin Drilon INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

READ: Bicam meet: Question stalls BBL approval

“Iyan po [BBL] ay pruweba na kayang gawin sa kasalukuyang administrasyon at sa kasalukuyang Saligang Batas ang [i-dedevelop] daw po sa federal system,” he told dzMM.

(The BBL is proof that the current administration and Constitution can do what is targeted to be developed in the federal system.)

“Ito po ay nagagawa namin na nabibigyan ng sapat na kapangyarihan o talagang malawak na kapangyarihan ang Bangsamoro. Hindi po kailangan ang federal system,” he added.

(We were able to give enough power or indeed extensive power to the Bangsamoro. The federal system is not needed.)

Drilon also reiterated his concern that the planned Charter Change could be meant to postpone the 2019 Elections.

“Hindi kailangang palitan ang Saligang Batas, para tuloy ang halalan (Changing the Constitution is not necessary, so that the elections will proceed),” he said. /jpv

READ: Reason behind Cha-cha? It could be ‘no-el’ — Drilon

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Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1011484/bbl-proves-federalism-is-not-needed-drilon-drilon-federalism-senate-cha-cha-bbl#ixzz5LaJxCyjX
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