Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Shoal’

South China Sea: Philippines seeks gentleman’s agreement on sea code

May 20, 2017

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions. File

 

MANILA, Philippines – With no legally binding mechanism to enforce any deal on the South China Sea dispute, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may, in the meantime, settle for a “gentleman’s agreement” to prevent war or at least keep the situation in the region stable.

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions.

“Many countries want it to be legally binding. But what I’m saying is, let’s start with it being binding, gentleman’s agreement,” Cayetano said, referring to the absence in the draft framework of a clause specifying that a code should be legally binding.

“We have a community of nations that signed it,” he added.

He explained that legally binding means there is a court or tribunal to which parties can turn if another party reneges on the agreement.

“So, let me say this: definitely, it should be binding. Now, the question is, if it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that don’t comply, will they respect that court? We’re all trying to avoid not only war, but instability,” Cayetano told reporters during a visit to the DFA Office of Consular Affairs on Macapagal Avenue on his first day as DFA chief. He was replying to a question on whether Manila should insist on a legally binding COC.

He admitted there is a need for a mechanism that would help resolve issues if some parties fail or refuse to comply with the code.

“I’m telling you the practical reality of negotiations in international agreement. So, do most or all of the countries want it to be legally binding? Yes. But will the language include that? We don’t know. Because if one or two do not approve of that, they don’t believe that there can be an independent court, will we go for nothing, no Code of Conduct?” Cayetano said. “Or will we agree to a code of conduct that will be enforced only by the community of nations who signed it?” he said.

Image may contain: 1 person

Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the resource-rich waters, aside from China and the Philippines.

Arbitral ruling

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea in a case filed against Beijing by the previous Aquino administration.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs and other land features to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has also been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

President Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, 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. Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing the code could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when US policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, an expert on the South China Sea issue. “Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

What green light?

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, rebutted yesterday the claims of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that President Duterte had given a green light to China’s further reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Abella explained Duterte maintains a two-track approach to keep a stable relationship with China.

“One, to grow our healthy economic, trade and investment relationships, and to ensure that our arbitral rights in the West Philippine Sea are not compromised, more so now through the newly established bilateral consultation mechanism to manage disputes in the area,” he said.

“The Philippines engaged (China) in a frank discussion on possible oil explorations in the WPS,” Abella said in a separate statement yesterday.

“President Duterte was forthright about its economic rights awarded by the Arbitral Court in The Hague, a claim the Chinese leader said they would vigorously contest given their historic claims to the area,” he added.

He stressed the President would never stop exploring peaceful ways of resolving the country’s maritime dispute with China.

“Given this complexity, both parties agreed to pursue a more peaceful resolution to the matter that satisfies both our sovereign and economic rights,” he added.

Abella echoed Duterte’s chastising the United States for not directly confronting China over its island building activities in the West Philippine Sea.  He said the US chose to remain on the sidelines despite having in its possession satellite images of Chinese activities in disputed waters.

“With all due respect to the Senior Associate Justice, Chinese island-building and military deployment activities on certain features in the West Philippine Sea have been ongoing for some years now,” Abella added.

“The disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea are not the sum total of our relations with China, but we are cognizant of the warmer relationships we have in the region.”

Old issue

Duterte on Friday took Carpio and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario to task for criticizing him over his decision to cozy up to China and separate from the US, a long-time ally.

He said Carpio and Del Rosario have had no basis to claim that he had totally disregarded the arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines’ position.

It was in the same remarks – delivered at the Philippine Coast Guard’s 333rd anniversary celebration in Davao City – that Duterte revealed that China’s President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines would force the issue of the arbitration ruling.

A senior security official, who declined to be named, said China was just bluffing. “China could just be exploiting our weaknesses using all elements within its national power,” he said.

“This is a very difficult issue but if push comes to shove, let it be known to all that we are determined, as protector of the people and state, to defend what is ours,” another official said.

Last Thursday, Carpio said Duterte had practically allowed China to continue its reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea when he did not mention the territorial dispute in his ASEAN chairman’s statement.

“In 2017 we were the host (of the ASEAN Summit), the President was responsible for the chairman’s statement (and made) no mention of reclamation or militarization. For the Chinese this is a green light,” Carpio said.

Reports said that ASEAN leaders revised the final statement and removed any reference to the arbitration ruling. The revision reportedly happened after intense debates and lobbying among ASEAN leaders.

Carpio was a member of the country’s legal team that argued the Philippines’ case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The magistrate said even the 2016 chairman’s statement in Cambodia mentioned China’s land reclamation activities.

“That statement was very good despite the fact that we were not happy. It was strong, it mentioned land reclamation, expressing concern about land reclamation, about land militarization. It was directed at China – do not reclaim further – especially Scarborough Shoal,” he said.

Carpio earlier cautioned that it would be “game over” for the Philippines if China succeeds in reclaiming Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude 

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/21/1701969/philippines-seeks-gentlemans-agreement-sea-code

Related:

No automatic alt text available.

China is preparing for the reclamation and construction on Scarborough Shoal

FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

No automatic alt text available.

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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.

Philippines Calls for ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ Between ASEAN, China on Sea Code — “No need for a legally binding contract.”

May 19, 2017

MANILA — Southeast Asian nations and China should start with a “gentleman’s agreement” on the busy South China Sea waterway because no mechanism exists to legally enforce any deal, the Philippine foreign minister said on Friday.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on Thursday finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct, despite regional scepticism whether Beijing will commit to rules likely to restrain its maritime ambitions.

Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code. It was unclear if that was mentioned in the framework draft, which has not been made public.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano played down the importance of a legally binding contract.

“If it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?” he asked reporters.

“Let’s start with it being binding, gentlemen’s agreement. We have a community of nations that signed it.”

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2qyBNpf for graphic on overlapping claims in the South China Sea

Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, in a case filed on maritime boundaries filed by the previous Philippine government in 2013.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has unfinished business there and has been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing it could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when U.S. policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source, who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, a Philippine academic and expert on the South China Sea.

“Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2pSNmZq for graphic on Turf war on the South China Sea

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

************************************

The Associated Press

BEIJING  — China and the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations have agreed on the rough outline of a legally binding code of conduct designed to prevent clashes in the strategic South China Sea, officials said.

.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was quoted in state media Friday as saying the agreement laid a “solid foundation” for further negotiations.
 .
“All parties have vowed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations” toward the early conclusion of the code of conduct, Liu was quoted as telling Xinhua News Agency following Thursday’s meeting in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang.
 .
The Philippines welcomed the finalization of the draft of the framework. It contains elements that the parties agreed upon and will be presented to Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers in August for consideration, the statement from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.
 .
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong said the sides hoped that would produce needed “political support” from the ministers.
 .
No details were given and Liu said the text of the framework agreement would remain secret for now. No date was given for the adoption of a full code of conduct.
 .
Also Friday, Liu and the Philippines ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago “Chito” Santa Romana were to meet separately to discuss an agenda for future talks on their dispute over islands and waters in the eastern portion of the South China Sea.
 .
China was enraged by a ruling last year from a Hague tribunal invalidating most of its South China Sea claims in a case brought by the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed that ruling as part of his push for a broad improvement in relations between the sides since taking office in June that has cast a shadow over Manila’s ties to its longtime ally, the United States.
 .
Despite the thaw in relations, China protested a visit last month by Manila’s defense and military chiefs to a disputed island in the South China Sea. The Philippine government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.
 .
At a briefing in Beijing earlier this week, Romana said the sides had “turned a new page” on dealing with their South China Sea issues.
 .
“Generally, the situation has eased in terms of tensions between the Philippines and China,” he said, citing regained access by Philippine fishermen to Scarborough Shoal after years of being blocked by Chinese ships.
 .
“It does not mean the differences have disappeared. As (Duterte) told President Xi (Jinping), there will still be problems, but we are willing to discuss the issues with the Chinese side and he is optimistic that the bilateral negotiations and bilateral dialogue is the way to go,” Romana said.
 .
China and the members of ASEAN committed 15 years ago to signing a code of conduct, but progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety.
 .
In the absence of such an agreement, they have followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, which among other provisions, commits the parties to “exploring ways for building trust and confidence … on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
 .
Along with the Philippines, ASEAN members Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea that overlap with those of China and Taiwan.
 .
An estimated $5 trillion in global trade annually passes through the South China Sea, which is also home to rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources.
.

Related:

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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.

The Philippines, China and the South China Sea: Corruption, Tricky Deals and Failure to Follow International Law

May 12, 2017

There should be a military unit exclusively to protect the resource-rich Benham Rise off Luzon’s Pacific coast. Former President Fidel Ramos proposed such sea-air-land force amid reports of foreign trespass in the 13 million-hectare undersea plateau.

Teeming with fish and believed to hold oil and minerals, Benham is within the Philippines’ extended continental shelf. Ramos, who once headed the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said an “Eastern Command” should be formed to guard it. The defense department could assign the task to the Navy, he said during the latter’s forum on ASEAN maritime security last Wednesday.

Chinese exploration vessels were sighted crisscrossing Benham waters for three months starting last Nov. One even stayed for a month in one spot, leaving only to hospitalize an injured sailor in Surigao City, northern Mindanao. Beijing alibied that the vessels merely were on innocent passage. But a southern China newspaper later reported the return of one vessel from a “special mission” to gather seabed sediment samples. Such specimens were to determine mineral presence and suitable submarine parking.

An Eastern Command could be based in an existing Cagayan naval station that also has airstrips, sources said. The station is half a day’s sailing time to Benham. It would be equivalent to the Western Command, based in Palawan, also under the Navy, guarding the exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign fishers long have been poaching in the unguarded Benham seas. A coast guard patrol confirmed their presence last week. Ramos said the Eastern Command would protect maritime interests granted by the United Nations exclusively to the Philippines.

* * *

Beijing’s narrative in the South China Sea is that it is only trying to retrieve historic territorial waters. And it supposedly is doing so legally and peacefully. But what’s the truth, based on ancient maps, historical records, and modern maritime laws?

Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio extensively has researched the issues, presented in the e-book “Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea: The South China Sea Dispute.” Download and share it for free from the following websites:

http://www.imoa.ph/

http://murillovelardemap.com/

* * *

There’s blood in the hands of those who procured dilapidated Air Force combat-utility helicopters during the Aquino administration. There would be more if present officials ignore the P1.2-billion scam.

One of the 19 choppers crashed in Tanay, Rizal, last week, killing three airmen. Another crash-landed in clear weather in Sarangani last Nov. No one perished there, but danger signs already showed.

The defective aircraft already hit the headlines about this time two years ago. A Filipino broker blew the whistle on her estranged American partner who sold the units under suspicious circumstances. Exposed was that two biddings had been rigged three years earlier to suit one party. Better suppliers either walked out or were disqualified on flimsy technicalities. The biddings were declared failures. That paved the way for negotiated purchase from the favored American. Sixty-year-old UH-1D helicopters, double the age of the pilots who would fly them, were indented. Components from junkyards were assembled in an ill-equipped California factory. Signing the contract were the defense secretary, an undersecretary, an assistant secretary. Two generals endorsed and accepted the units – delayed, decrepit, and mostly inoperative.

In his 2012 State of the Nation, then-President Noynoy Aquino announced that nine of the choppers were en route to Manila. They arrived three-and-a-half years later. Some of the aircraft were displayed during the Air Force anniversary; none were flown because the motors wouldn’t start. A Senate inquiry ensued; warnings were aired about deaths and injuries from the unfit choppers; there was no final report. What stood out was the badmouthing by Internet trolls of the whistleblower and the few newsmen who reported on the issue.

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

***********************************************

Chinese ships’ passage off Samar ‘innocent’ – PCG

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that based on information received by the PCG, the Chinese ship seen in the waters off Guiuan, Eastern Samar between January and March was a research vessel. File

MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese research vessel spotted off Eastern Samar was only making “innocent passage,” the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said yesterday.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that based on information received by the PCG, the Chinese ship seen in the waters off Guiuan, Eastern Samar between January and March was a research vessel.

“For as long as the Chinese ship was only passing through, then there is no problem… The Chinese ship was also monitored more than 200 nautical miles away from the shoreline,” Balilo said.

He said they have not received any report of irregularity in the activities of the unnamed Chinese vessel, like illegal fishing or dumping of waste into the water.

The PCG spokesman stressed there were other foreign ships in the area – including US and Japanese vessels.

On Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported sightings of three Chinese ships in different parts of the country.

The AFP told the House committee on national defense that the Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 stayed for nine days northwest of Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, while the Xiang Yang Hong 06 stayed for 19 days at 226 nautical miles northeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Image result for Xiang Yang Hong 06, photos

Xiang Yang Hong 06

Another Chinese vessel Jiangkai, with bow number 525, was allegedly seen in Mindoro last April 23. It was reportedly following US Navy ship USS Stethem that was on routine operations in the area.

Balilo said that they have no information about the Chinese ships reportedly seen in Mindoro and Ilocos Sur.

Amid reports of increasing Chinese activities in Philippine waters, the military has started moving personnel and construction materials to Pag-Asa Island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, in preparation for the construction of a beaching ramp and the concreting of the Rancudo Airfield.

A beaching ramp is needed so that ships could unload construction materials and equipment on the island.

Puerto Princesa City-based Western Command (Wescom) commander Lt. Gen. Raul del Rosario said units involved in the projects have left the Palawan mainland for their journey to Pag-Asa.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the administration has allotted P1.6 billion for the development of all nine military outposts in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

“Our personnel along with some construction materials have already moved. They moved last week but they have to wait for more construction materials,” Del Rosario said.

But he could not say yet when the actual spadework would begin.

Building a beaching ramp requires dredging a shallow portion of the shoreline. At present, cargo or supplies for the island are unloaded from ships and ferried on small boats to the shore some 500 meters away. The procedure takes days or even weeks to complete.

Pag-Asa Island, which is also the seat of Palawan’s farthest fifth-class municipality, is located just 14 nautical miles from Zamora (Subi) Reef, which has been transformed into an island fortress by the Chinese.

Meanwhile, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña is pushing for more scientific studies on the resources in Benham Rise, also known as the Benham Plateau.

Dela Peña, in an address before the recent National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) regional scientific meeting in Cebu, said Benham Rise carries tremendous potential that could help the government realize its vision of reducing economic inequality.

Aside from its rich marine and aquatic resources, Benham Rise is believed to contain huge gas and oil deposits.

Benham Rise is a seismically active undersea region estimated to cover an area of about 13 million hectares located east of Luzon. It is 35 meters underwater with the shallowest point located off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela.

In April 2012, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea recognized Benham Rise as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory.

“The Department of Science and Technology is focusing on strengthening research and development initiatives in various fields, including the fisheries sector because this will provide more opportunities for our marginalized fishermen in the regions and will help them uplift their economic condition,” Dela Pena said.  – Jaime Laude, Rainier Allan Ronda

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/12/1699079/chinese-ships-passage-samar-innocent-pcg

Related:

.
.
.
.
.
.
 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)
.

.

.
No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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 and nobody has even complained.

South China Sea: Philippines sends troops, supplies to disputed island

May 11, 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 in the 20th ASEAN Summit of Leaders next week.Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has started transporting troops and supplies to a disputed island in the South China Sea in preparation for construction work that includes reinforcing and lengthening an airstrip and building a dock, an official said Thursday.

China has protested the visit last month by the Philippine defense and military chiefs to Pag-asa Island, home to Filipino soldiers and fishermen for decades, but which is also claimed by Beijing.

Lt. Gen. Raul del Rosario, head of the Philippine military’s Western Command, said troops and initial supplies arrived on Pag-asa island last week. About 1.6 billion pesos ($32 million) has been earmarked for the construction that will also include a fish port, solar power, water desalination plant, refurbishment of housing for soldiers and facilities for marine research and tourists.

China’s construction of seven islands nearby in the Spratly archipelago has dwarfed similar activities by rival claimants, including the Philippines, whose frosty relations with Beijing have improved significantly under President Rodrigo Duterte.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/11/1698964/philippines-sends-troops-supplies-disputed-island

Related:

.
.
.
.
.
.
 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)
.

.

.
No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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 and nobody has even complained.

Philippine Supreme Court Justice — Not even President Rodrigo Duterte or the Congress can waive the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea

May 11, 2017
Gov’t urged to protest Beijing acts despite friendlier ties
/ 12:57 PM May 11, 2017

CARPIO ON A FORUM OF PH STAKE ON WEST PHILIPPINE SEA / APRIL 25 2016 Senior Justice Antonio Carpio talks about country's stake in the West Philippine Sea during a forum in CLub Filipino in San Juan City. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

Senior Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio talks about country’s stake in the West Philippine Sea during a forum in Club Filipino in San Juan City. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said not even President Rodrigo Duterte or the Congress can waive the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea amid warming ties between Manila and Beijing.

Asked if the President could be breaking Philippine laws with his remarks and actions in connection with China, Carpio said Duterte should be careful in making “unilateral statements” as he is the one recognized to “bind the country.”

READ: Carpio book on sea row challenges China | Carpio hopes e-book on disputed seas reaches Chinese audience

“Because the ruling involves sovereign rights, it says the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, so the sovereign rights cannot be waived by the President or anyone.  I don’t think even the Congress can waive that. Only the people can waive that. So if government officials waive that, it can be betrayal of public trust,” Carpio said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.

Carpio was referring to the United Nations-backed arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea and favored the Philippines based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He was instrumental in Manila’s filing of the case.

Since his election in May last year, President Duterte has forged a “recalibrated” foreign policy that veered away from dependence on the United States and shifted toward friendlier relations with China and Russia.

Duterte, who is facing an impeachment complaint filed by the Magdalo group over his alleged mishandling of the South China Sea case, has repeatedly said that the Philippines can’t match China’s military power.

But Carpio said the Philippine government should keep on protesting Beijing’s reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea despite the country’s relatively weaker military capacity. Beijing, which refused to recognize the arbitral ruling, continues to develop artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago.

“If we are no match with China, we don’t have to waive it. You can insist even if you can’t physically get it but you must keep on insisting. Because if you waive it, it’s gone forever. The moment we concede our sovereign rights, we cannot take it back because China will never give it back. That’s why we have to be very careful,” the justice said.

He said, “We have many cards to play that are not confrontational.”

Carpio cited Vietnam, one of the claimant countries in the disputed seas, as a possible model for the Philippines. Hanoi maintains good trade relations with Beijing despite a strong stance in the maritime row.

“I would take the approach of Vietnam as the model because Vietnam is very strong in resisting China’s encroachment but they continue to have very strong trade relations with China. A lot of Chinese companies operate in direct export zones. It’s not an ‘either or’ because they were able to separate these issues and China would accept that,” Carpio said.

“If we adopt that attitude that we don’t want to displease China, we’ll never get back our exclusive economic zone. Every time China fortifies its claim, build something there, we will not displease China. It will end that way. We have to protest every act of China, any attempt to increase or enforce its claim,” he added.

Carpio has recently launched a book that questions China’s claims to the disputed seas, which he said he will distribute online in Mandarin so it could reach Chinese people. CBB

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/156441/carpio-duterte-congress-cant-waive-ph-rights-west-ph-sea#ixzz4gkZbLOtS
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Related:

.
.
.
.
.
.
 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)
.

.

.
No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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 and nobody has even complained.

China is likely to militarize Scarborough Shoal — Philippines sees its islands become Chinese

May 11, 2017
Scarborough Shoal, Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, is a traditional common fishing ground located 120 nautical miles from Zambales. Google Maps

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing may start building military facilities on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea as part of their strategy in countering the United States.

 

In an interview with ANC’s “Headstart,” Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said China may reclaim Scarborough Shoal in the same way they did with Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Carpio explained that Scarborough Shoal is a strategic location for China as it guards the exit to the Pacific, which would allow them to fire missiles directed to the US in the future.

“Scarborough Shoal guards the exit to the Pacific because the Chinese submarines, nuclear-armed submarines are based in Hainan (Island) and if they fire their missiles in the South China Sea, those missiles will not reach the US because the range is only about 7,500 kilometers,” Carpio said.

Image result for Scarborough shoal, photos

Recent reports showed that China has been making preparations for new land-based missile installations on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

Satellite imagery from ImageSat International reveals recent changes in the layout of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Yulin Naval Base at the tip of Hainan Island.

Defense News reported that the PLA has deployed multiple missile launchers on the western side of Yulin Naval Base in less than two months.

Carpio, meawhile, noted that China would have to go to the mid-Pacific in able to launch missiles that would reach the US.

“They have to go to the mid-Pacific and their only exit is though the Bashi channel and the air and naval base of China in Scarborough Shoal will protect that exit to the Bashi channel,” Carpio said.

Situated in Batanes off northern Luzon, the Bashi Channel is a route to enter or exit the Western Pacific.

No automatic alt text available.

China is preparing for the reclamation and construction on Scarborough Shoal

“If they reclaim it, it will be like their reclamation in Mischief Reef where they have a runway, they have a harbor for warships and their warships from there can go to the Bashi Channel to protect their outlet to the Pacific,” Carpio said.

Carpio warned that increased Chinese presence in Scarborough Shoal means that they are planning something.

“Scarborough Shoal, I think, is the last shoal that they will reclaim and build into an artificial island to house, to host air and naval base and that could happen anytime,” the high court justice said.

‘China’s militarization of South China Sea is real’

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, said that Washington is challenged by an aggressive China which continues a methodical strategy to control the South China Sea.

“China’s militarization of the South China Sea is real,” Harris told the US Senate Armed Services Committee a few weeks ago.

Harris stressed that he has testified before that China was militarizing the international waterway and airspace above it by building air and naval bases on seven man-made islands in the Spratlys.

“Despite subsequent Chinese assurances at the highest levels that they would not militarize these bases, today, they have these facilities that support long-range weapons emplacements, fighter aircraft hangars, radar towers and barracks for their troops,” Harris said.

China is nearly finished with its construction of three air bases on Subi (Zamora), Mischief (Panganiban) and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

Beijing’s naval, air, radar and defensive facilities in the islands would allow them to deploy military assets including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands at any time.

RELATED: China can now deploy military assets to South China Sea

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/11/1698927/china-scarborough-shoal-carpio-south-china-sea

**************************************************

Hong Kong media reported Monday, April 25 that as China seeks to project its power in the disputed West Philippine sea (South China sea) The Chinese is now preparing for the reclamation and construction on Panatag shoal (Scarborough shoal). An islet inside the exclusive economic zone claimed by the Philippines.

The South China Morning Post daily newspaper cited an anonymous source near the People’s Liberation Army saying, “No one can stop us” We will set-up a station on Scarborough Shoal, otherwise called Bajo de Masinloc, 230 kilometers (143 miles) off the Philippine coast. It is claimed by Manila but has been under Beijing’s control since 2012,

hydhpt

China’s plans to build up Scarborough Shoal also could be a response to an international court ruling anticipated later this month or early next month that is expected to rule in favor of Manila’s claims to the Spratlys.

It likewise takes after a declaration by the US and the Philippines that they would dispatch joint maritime patrol in the West Philippine sea.

China may also be moving quickly to build up Scarborough Shoal over concerns the next U.S. president will be tougher on Chinese maritime expansion.

U.S. Military analyst said that in order to get ahead of this potential confrontation, China will move this year to slice off the next piece of salami—the uninhabited shoals like at Scarborough.”

Scarborough was once used by the U.S. Navy as a bombing range in the early 1980s, something that could complicate the Chinese development plan.

Below is details of the militarization plan for Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands were obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several months, according to defense officials.

China’s militarization plan for Scarborough Shoal

The plans were confirmed last month when a website for Chinese military enthusiasts posted a detailed dredging plan for Scarborough Shoal, including a runway, power systems, residences, and harbor capable of supporting Chinese navy warships.

The website included satellite photographs purportedly based on a construction bid proposed by the “Huangyan Island Township,” a municipality created under what China claims is its regional authority on Sansha Island, located near China’s Hainan Island.

A graphic with one photo outlined the development plan, with three Chinese guided-missile frigates at a wharf at the southern opening of the shoal.

Other features include an airport and runway at the northern end, an electrical plan, a water treatment plant, a residential building, a hotel, and a “travel holiday” area.

The reported plan to develop and militarize Scarborough Shoal, however, has set off warning bells in both the Pentagon and State Department because of the area’s proximity to the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally that recently agreed to enhance defense cooperation in the face of Chinese aggression.

Because of this report, six U.S. military aircraft that stayed behind at Clark Air Base after the 2016 Balikatan exercises have conducted a fly ops in the Scarborough Shoal according to the Pacific Air Forces.

United States A10 warthog

“The A-10s and HH-60s conducted a flying mission through the international airspace in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal west of the Philippines providing air and maritime situational awareness,” said the Pacific Air Forces in a public statement on Thursday.

Also, read this U.S. fighter jets conduct fly ops on Scarborough Shoal

U.S. A10 Warthog stationed at Clark Air Base, Pampanga – kunsan.af.mil

Their missions is to promote transparency and safety of movement in international waters and airspace, representing the US commitment to ally and partner nations and to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’s continued stability now and for generations to come. – Jason E.

http://www.manilalivewire.com/2016/04/china-is-preparing-for-the-reclamation-and-construction-on-scarborough-shoal/

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

.
.
.
.
.
.
 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)
.

.

.
No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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 and nobody has even complained.

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

May 9, 2017

May 8, 2017

The Associated Press

No automatic alt text available.

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

___

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

___

CHINA SHOWS NAVAL AIR EXERCISES ABOVE SEA

China’s state broadcaster has shown navy fighter bombers taking part in exercises over the South China Sea, including one involving the detection and expulsion of foreign military surveillance aircraft such as those deployed regularly in the area by the U.S. and others.

The video shown on CCTV’s military channel over the weekend shows a squadron of two-seater Xian JH-7 Flying Leopards flying in formation and dropping bombs on targets in the ocean below. Other video showed planes flying just meters (yards) above the ocean surface.

Following that, pilots were “notified that foreign aircraft had entered our airspace to conduct surveillance. One of the planes taking part in the exercise was immediately ordered by the tower to break off and intercept the foreign aircraft,” the report said.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, ocean, outdoor and nature

That plane increased its elevation and “responded effectively,” seizing the commanding position and “successfully expelling” the foreign aircraft, it said.

The report did not say when the exercise took place but said training this year was designed to be more realistic and focused on specific situations, taking the Chinese aircraft to the limits of their range and capability.

“In the process of unceasingly challenging ourselves, the building of our team of talents has entered the fast lane,” Tian Junqing, commander of an unidentified South China Sea naval air force regiment, told the station. “The overall combat capability of the force is increasing by stages, forging a formidable force that dares to fight and thunders over the South China Sea.”

Missions by U.S. Navy surveillance planes flying in international airspace off the Chinese coast are a particular bone of contention for Beijing.

Twice last year U.S. and Chinese aircraft came close, in one instance to within 15 meters (50 feet) of each other. In August 2014, a Chinese fighter jet came within 9 meters (30 feet) of a Navy P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance plane off Hainan Island — a major military hub — and carried out a series of risky maneuvers, including rolling over it.

In April 2001, a Chinese jet fighter collided with a U.S. surveillance plane over the South China Sea, leading to the death of the Chinese pilot and China’s detention of the 24 U.S. crew members for 10 days.

The U.S. and China in 2015 signed rules of behavior to make air-to-air encounters safer, but some analysts say they don’t go far enough.

___

PHILIPPINE JUDGE LAUNCHES BOOK ON SEA CLAIMS

A Philippine Supreme Court justice has released a book that questions China’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea and said he will distribute it online to try to overcome China’s censorship and reach its people.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said his e-book can be downloaded for free in English now and will be made available later in Mandarin, Vietnamese, Bahasa, Japanese and Spanish to help more people understand the basis of the Philippines’ stand against China’s territorial claims.

Carpio said public opinion, including in China, can help pressure Beijing to comply with an arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s historic claims based on a 1982 maritime treaty. Carpio helped prepare the arbitration case, which the Philippines largely won.

China has dismissed the ruling and continued to develop seven artificial islands in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago. China’s construction of the islands on disputed reefs has alarmed rival claimants and the United States.

In the book, titled “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio uses old maps, photographs, excerpts from the arbitration ruling, Chinese government statements and documents to question the validity of China’s claims.

Carpio warns in the book that China may be planning to build more island outposts at Luconia Shoal off Malaysia and Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

If it constructs an island base at Scarborough, China would have enough radar coverage of the South China Sea to be able to impose an air defense identification zone similar to what it did a few years ago in the East China Sea in a region where it has a territorial dispute with Japan, he said.

___

WITH AN EYE ON CHINA, TRUMP MAKES DIPLOMATIC INITATIVE TO SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES

U.S. President Donald Trump has made an unexpected diplomatic initiative toward several Southeast Asian counterparts, telephoning Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to reaffirm traditional close relations and invite them for meetings.

The invitations extended last week followed another one to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a call during which Trump also affirmed America’s alliance and friendship with the Philippines and its president, who has maintained an antagonistic stance toward U.S. security policies.

Prayuth’s office said he had accepted Trump’s invitation, while a Singapore Foreign Ministry statement said the two leaders “looked forward to meeting each other soon.” No dates were mentioned for the visits.

Duterte said he has not accepted the invitation because of scheduled trips to Russia, Israel and other countries.

Washington’s diplomacy in Asia has focused recently on China and tensions with North Korea, although Vice President Mike Pence included Indonesia on a recent Asia tour.

Washington has strategic concerns in countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines are historically the most pro-Western nations in the region, but China’s influence has been increasing as it flexes its economic muscle and projects its military power into the South China Sea.

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts or all of the South China Sea that straddle busy sea lanes and are believed to be atop undersea deposits of oil and gas.

Prayuth’s office said he and Trump reaffirmed the importance of their countries’ long-standing alliance. It also said Prayuth invited Trump to visit Thailand at a convenient time.

The White House statement about the call to Lee mentioned that “robust security cooperation and close collaboration on regional and global challenges” mark the two countries’ partnership.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke by phone last week with Duterte, reflecting radically improved relations between the two governments. China’s official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying the Philippines and China are deepening political mutual trust, carrying out cooperation in various fields, and have set up a channel of dialogue and consultation on the South China Sea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) returns a salute from a Chinese naval officer (L) as Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (R) looks on during Duterte’s arrival to visit the guided missile frigate Changchun berthed at the Davao international port on May 1, 2017. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 1 visited Chinese warships docked in his home town and raised the prospect of future joint exercises, highlighting fast-warming relations despite competing claims in the South China Sea. Manman Dejeto/AFP

___

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Related:

 (Judge Carpio’s book)

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Image may contain: outdoor and water

Seismic research vessel of the type typically used by China before mining the sea bed

.

.
.
.
No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  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 and nobody has even complained.

Philippines abruptly drops South China Sea mentions from ASEAN statement

May 1, 2017

The Associated Press

Southeast Asian leaders link arms the "ASEAN Way" as they pose for a group photo following their retreat in the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Manila, Philippines.

Southeast Asian leaders link arms the “ASEAN Way” as they pose for a group photo following their retreat in the 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Manila, Philippines.  (AP)

The Philippines followed up a summit of Southeast Asian leaders by releasing a final communique Sunday that removed mention of international concerns over China’s “militarization” of newly built islands in the disputed South China Sea in a major concession to Beijing.

The 25-page statement issued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte following the daylong meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations he hosted in Manila also made no direct mention of his country’s landmark arbitration victory against China last year. A vague reference to the ruling was removed from a part of the communique that discussed the long-seething territorial conflicts and moved elsewhere in the document.

The changes were apparent based on a previous draft of the communique seen by The Associated Press. A foreign diplomat based in Manila told the AP that the Philippines circulated a stronger draft statement to other ASEAN member states, which was backed by countries like Vietnam.

Other governments made suggestions but Duterte, as ASEAN chairman this year, could decide how to shape the language of the regional bloc’s “chairman’s statement,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.

China and ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims to territory in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which billions of dollars in world trade passes each year. The waters are also important fishing grounds and are believed to have undersea deposits of oil and gas.

ASEAN, which makes decisions by consensus, has previously struggled to come up with statements on the issue, with Duterte’s predecessor often pushing for a tougher tone against China and getting pushback from members, like Beijing’s allies Cambodia and Laos, unwilling to upset their largest trading partner and most important economic benefactor.

China has dismissed and ignored last July’s arbitration ruling, which invalidated most of its historic claims to almost all of the South China Sea. China has long argued that the territorial disputes have nothing to do with its relationship with ASEAN and should be settled through bilateral talks.

Since taking office last June, Duterte has taken a much softer stance on China and the disputes than his predecessor. That was reflected in Sunday’s watered-down communique, which three Philippine officials told The AP came at the request of Chinese diplomats in Manila. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the press.

Chinese Embassy officials in Manila were not immediately available for comment.

Former Philippine officials who dealt with the disputes say Duterte’s concessions to China could weaken the ability of the Philippines and other ASEAN member states to seek Chinese compliance to the arbitration ruling and curb Beijing’s increasingly assertive behavior in the disputed waters.

“Our government, in its desire to fully and quickly accommodate our aggressive northern neighbor may have left itself negotiating a perilous road with little or no room to rely on brake power and a chance to shift gears if necessary,” former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Photo: A Filipino fishing boat that had been chased away from Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel last year. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Del Rosario, then under President Benigno Aquino III, spearheaded the filing of the arbitration complaint against China in 2013.

Duterte has said he prefers to warm once-frosty ties with and secure infrastructure funding from Beijing. Still he has said he will raise the ruling with China at some point during his six-year term.

A draft of the ASEAN communique seen by the AP ahead of the summit mentioned concerns about China’s “land reclamation” or construction of new islands in the South China Sea and its “militarization” of the disputed region but did not mention China by name. That has been a standard policy in previous ASEAN statements.

“Non-mention of The Hague ruling would be a diplomatic triumph for China,” said former Philippine national security adviser Roilo Golez, referring to the European tribunal that issued the landmark decision.

“It might embolden them to advance some more in their South China Sea master plan,” said Golez, citing fears that China may also turn the disputed Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines into another island outpost.

Related:

South China Sea: China Embassy Officials Working To Influence ASEAN Summit Statements — Host Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Embarrassed But Undaunted

April 29, 2017

MANILA — Southeast Asian countries have altered a statement to be issued at Saturday’s ASEAN summit to include references to militarization and island-building in the South China Sea, the latest draft shows, in a move likely to frustrate Beijing.

Chinese embassy representatives in Manila had sought to influence the content of the communique by lobbying Philippine officials, two ASEAN diplomatic sources told Reuters.

However, four ASEAN member states disagreed with omitting “land reclamation and militarization” – terms included in the statement issued last year in Laos, but not featured in an earlier draft of this year’s statement seen on Wednesday.

China is not a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and is not attending the summit. China embassy officials in Manila could not be reached and China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

 Image may contain: 7 people

ASEAN references to the South China Sea issue typically do not name China. Beijing is extremely sensitive to anything it perceives as a veiled reference to its expansion of its seven manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago, including with hangers, runways, radars and missiles.

The final version of the statement has yet to be agreed, but changes so far indicate ASEAN is resisting moves by China to keep its contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.

China’s lobbying, and its burgeoning friendship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, may not have been enough to influence Manila’s position either.

“The Philippines is under too much pressure,” one of the sources said.

(For graphic on the Scarborough Shoal, click http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/ASEAN-SUMMIT-SOUTHCHINASEA/010021LX3Z6/ASEAN-SUMMIT-SOUTHCHINASEA.jpg)

(For graphic on the turf war on the South China Sea, click http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/1/6/12/index.html)

TABOO TOPIC

This year’s summit comes at a time of uncertainty about U.S. interests in the region and whether it will maintain its maritime presence to counter China’s assertiveness.

Chinese officials pressed for words that might allude to last year’s international arbitration ruling to be kept out of the statement, the diplomats said, particularly the term “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes”.

The latest draft still includes that, although it was moved out of the South China Sea section to another.

“They do not want any phrase linked to the arbitration case,” one source said.

The Hague ruling, in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013, angered China because it invalidated China’s claim of sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea. China refuses to recognize the decision.

As part of his engagement with China, Duterte has decided not to press it to abide by the arbitration award anytime soon. On Thursday he said it was pointless for ASEAN to pressure China.

In his address to open the leaders’ summit, Duterte made no mention of the South China Sea, but touched on many issues central to his 10-month administration.

Duterte mentioned extremism, piracy, interference in a country’s affairs, and his signature fight against drugs, for which he has been widely condemned over the deaths of thousands of Filipinos.

“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable,” he said. “With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies.”

Duterte then hosted two meetings with ASEAN leaders, which were not open to media.

ASEAN and China are hoping to this year agree on a framework to create a code of conduct over the South China Sea, 15 years after committing to draft it. Some ASEAN diplomats doubt China is sincere about agreeing to a set of rules.

In unusually direct comments for an ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh on Thursday told Reuters the code needed to be legally binding to put a stop to “unilateral actions”, because a previous commitment to play fair had been ignored.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Related:

FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

No automatic alt text available.

On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Despite all this:

Philippines Policy on Fisheries, Impending Fisheries Crisis Inadequate To Defend Filipino Jobs, Environment, Food Security and Philippine Economy

April 24, 2017
In this image taken from video run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, the aircraft carrier Liaoning is escorted by navy ships during a drill in the South China Sea. China confirmed that its aircraft carrier has for the first time conducted drills in the South China Sea with a formation of other warships and fighter jets, a move that could raise concerns among its neighbors. CCTV via AP Video

ASEAN’s leaders will gather in Manila next week for the 30th ASEAN Summit. While the leaders and diplomats forge stronger bonds of friendship, those of us watching can only hope that the summit and other scheduled meetings will help to move the region concretely forward.

At the top of everyone’s mind is the South China Sea: What does the Philippines want to achieve with ASEAN and with the dialogue partners this year? What’s slated for the framework for the code of conduct? Will this framework even proceed to a binding and enforceable code? How will we achieve our aims in line with our commitments in upholding international law?

The Philippines is no stranger to the difficulties in the South China Sea, and has even been at the forefront of these challenges. More pressingly, the challenge has evolved: Chinese vessels loiter in Benham Rise, construction on Scarborough Shoal is a looming possibility and reports are emerging that Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired shots at Filipino fishermen in the Spratlys. How long can Southeast Asian governments paper over these difficulties in the name of friendly ties?

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor

Fishermen sort the catch in the South China Sea

At this stage, there are more questions than there are answers. For this reason, the Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi) will host a forum on April 25 entitled “The South China Sea: the Philippines, ASEAN and their international partners.” In our view, the Philippines should not lose sight of its a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on Southeast Asia’s pressing political and security challenges.

Converging on the fisheries

One of the under-examined issues concerning the West Philippine Sea is fisheries management. Fish and fisheries remain crucial to food security, livelihoods and export revenue to over about 2 billion inhabitants of the region. However, the overlapping territorial and maritime sovereignty claims among the coastal states continue hinder efforts to establish sustainable mechanisms for fisheries management, as well as curb illegal and unsustainable fishing practices.

As the Philippines assumes chairmanship of ASEAN 2017, one of the goals is to translate its legal victory from the arbitral tribunal into workable policies that address the impending fisheries crisis not only on the national but also on the regional level. For an ADRi special study entitled “Converging on the Fisheries in the South China Sea,” Dr. Carmen Lagman of DLSU has analyzed the fisheries production-consumption patterns and transboundary management mechanisms, and proposed a path forward for the ASEAN coastal states to enhance fisheries management in the name of food security.

The value of the South China Sea to food and job security

Lagman explains the vitality of the South China Sea as a source of food and livelihoods. In 2015, a conservative estimate based on reported fisheries landings in the sea is about 12 percent of the total global catch. With the exception of Brunei Darussalam, all the other countries in the South China Sea are in the top 20 countries with the highest recorded fisheries catch in 2014.

The sea could potentially yield 11 to 17 million tons in trade fisheries catch and US$ 12 to 22 billion in annual fisheries landed value. This translates to over 3 million jobs associated with the fisheries. In fact, based on these values of the landed fisheries in 2012, total economic activity in the broader economy supported by fishing is estimated at US$ 66.7 billion.

Unsustainability of local fishing practices

However, the indispensable value of the sea is imperiled by unsustainable practices of small and large-scale industrial fisheries sector. Usually, commercial boats encroach into the so-called traditional fishing areas of small-scale fishermen, using trawls, ring nets and purse seins, which practically harvest all organisms within the site of operations. As a result, small-scale fishermen usually complain of losing income while environmentalists point out to the irreversible damage that such commercial fishing tools and methods bring to the environment.

Moreover, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions for defining an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have tremendously influenced the structure of fisheries policies in national and international arenas. It had the profound effects of: raising the contribution of fisheries to the national gross domestic product or GDP; bringing about a redistribution of benefits from fishing from distant water fishing fleets to the coastal states; and attracting greater investments into the fisheries sector.

Though total fisheries catch appears to be steadily increasing, there have already been differences in the quality of fish. Large predatory fish such as tuna and grouper are found less. They are increasingly being replaced by smaller fish that feed on zooplankton. This phenomenon dubbed as “fishing down the food web” reflects a dangerous, continuing trend of overfishing. Notably, pelagic fish stocks in East Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and southern China have been subject to overfishing since the late 1980s. No wonder their fishermen venture into the West Philippine Sea where productivity has not dwindled.

A way forward for the Philippines and Southeast Asia

Having won the case in the arbitral tribunal, the Philippines may seize the opportunity to promote the country’s fisheries management policy, and synergize its conservation efforts with those of its neighbors. Lagman proposes the following: the establishment of transboundary marine parks or areas of joint protection which seeks to declare the remaining healthy, resource-rich areas and habitats as “no-take zones” such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal; inclusion of other international policy instruments, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Reykjavik Declaration (2001), FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995), and World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002); and Agenda 21 (1992) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), aimed at encouraging regional cooperation on fisheries management in the South China Sea in our diplomatic efforts; and development of regional-level policies targeted toward small-scale fisheries.

Conclusion

Fisheries and other marine areas could be a starting point for greater technical cooperation between the Philippines and its neighbors. In these times, all cooperative options should be studied and exhausted. In the process, we must take advantage of our scientific knowhow to look at the dispute management (even if not resolution) in a creative and fresh light.

We are looking for concrete ways to use our knowledge of the law and the environment to help bridge the political problems that keep the Philippines from fully and sustainably exploiting its resources. These options will be for naught, however, if the Philippines does not demonstrate its principled commitment to the rule of law and show its leadership in ASEAN this year. 

Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of Philstar.com.

http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2017/04/21/1692488/commentary-challenges-ahead-south-china-sea

**************************************************

Japan to exceed bluefin tuna quota amid warnings of commercial extinction

Conservationists call on Japan to abide by fishing agreements after reports annual quota will be exceeded two months early

 .Buyers inspect frozen tuna at a wholesale fish market in Tokyo
Buyers inspect frozen tuna at a wholesale fish market in Tokyo. Photograph: Aflo/Barcroft Images

Conservation groups have called on Japan to abide by international agreements to curb catches of Pacific bluefin tuna after reports said the country was poised to exceed an annual quota two months early – adding to pressure on stocks that have already reached dangerously low levels.

Japan, by far the world’s biggest consumer of Pacific bluefin, has caused “great frustration” with its failure to abide by catch quotas intended to save the species from commercial extinction, said Amanda Nickson, the director of global tuna conservation at Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Just a few years of overfishing will leave Pacific bluefin tuna vulnerable to devastating population reductions,” Nickson said in Tokyo on Monday. “That will threaten not just the fish but also the fishermen who depend on them.”

Decades of overfishing have left the Pacific bluefin population at just 2.6% of its historical high, and campaigners say Japan must take the lead at a summit in South Korea this summer.

In 2015, Japan and other members of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed to curtail catches of immature bluefin, halving the catch of fish under 30kg from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

But Japanese media reported last week that the country would reach its catch limit for younger tuna for the year through to June two months early.

Some fisheries workers have ignored the restrictions, aware that they will not be punished and can fetch premium prices for Pacific bluefin in Japan, where it is regarded as an important part of the country’s culinary heritage.

Campaigners support the fisheries commission’s aim of rebuilding stocks to at least 20% of unfished levels by 2034 – a target Nickson said was “realistic and attainable”. She said further inaction could revive calls for a two-year commercial moratorium on catching Pacific bluefin.

“No country in the world cares more about the future of tuna than Japan,” she said. “Japan can take the lead, but it must start by committing itself to the 20% rebuilding plan.”

If that fails, she added, “then a full commercial moratorium could be the only feasible course of action”.

Aiko Yamauchi, the leader of the oceans and seafood group for WWF Japan, said it was time to penalise fishermen who violated catch quotas. “The quotas should be mandatory, not voluntary,” Yamauchi said. “That’s why the current agreement hasn’t worked.”

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro – a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly – can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/24/japan-criticised-exceed-bluefin-tuna-fishing-quota

Related:

.

 (Philippine Star)

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

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

l