Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Shoal’

Philippines denies inaction on South China Sea

July 17, 2018
Image result for Harry Roque, philippines, photos

‘We file protests but we do it quietly’

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said it has been asserting the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea after a nationwide poll suggested that four out of five Filipinos reject the government’s perceived inaction on the issue.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly declared that he would not give up the country’s territory.

“The government of President Duterte is not guilty of inaction,” Roque told radio station dzRH.

( – July 16, 2018 – 4:04pm

“Whenever China does something that violates our sovereignty, we file protests but we do it quietly,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has said in the past the the Philippines has filed “50-100” protests with China, a claim that administration critics like Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon doubt.

Roque stressed that the president would not quarrel with China over the dispute because it would not benefit ties between Manila and Beijing.

“He (Duterte) believes we can set aside temporarily the things that cannot be resolved immediately. We can pursue those that can be pursued like the economy,” he added.

A Social Weather Stations survey conducted from June 27 to 30 found 81 percent of Filipinos believing that the government should not “leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence” in Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.

RELATED: Philippines now ‘willing victim’ in South China Sea dispute, Del Rosario laments

Eight out of ten Filipinos believe it is right for the government to strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, SWS said.

About seven out of ten or 74 percent of respondents think it is right for the government to bring the issue to international organizations while 73 percent back “direct, bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China.”

Meanwhile, 68 percent of Filipinos believe the government should ask other countries to mediate the issue.

Roque said all Filipinos, not just 81 percent of them, should oppose inaction on the maritime dispute.

“It should be 100 percent because there is no government inaction…Five out of five Filipinos should protest inaction because it is not true that President Duterte is not doing anything,” the presidential spokesman said.

RELATED: Chinese took Filipino fishers’ catch as ‘barter exchange,’ Duterte explains

“We are just not making noise but we have an immediate action if we think China is violating our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he added.

Roque said Duterte, who has been accused of being too soft on China, is continuously fighting for the interests of the Philippines.

Critics have accused Duterte of abandoning the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea in exchange for military and economic assistance from China

Duterte has denied this and has given assurance that he would discuss the South China Sea row with Chinese officials within his term. The president has also admitted that the Philippines would be courting “trouble” if it insists on its maritime claims, a claim that critics say paint war as the country’s only option.  — Alexis Romero

RELATED: With mere words, Duterte can lose to China rights Philippines won in arbitral ruling




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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 can Still Recover Sovereignty, Dignity, Resources in the South China Sea

July 16, 2018
Commentary: Time to recover from failure to use the South China Sea ruling as leverage
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By Dindo Manhit ( – July 16, 2018 – 3:26pm

During the second anniversary of our nation’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, the Stratbase ADR Institute gathered international experts, key stakeholders from the academe, government, and the private sector to discuss the consequences of the policy of appeasement that the administration had taken, in addition to the threats against and opportunities within the international rules-based order.

Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said that “compliance with or defiance of international rules has no correlation to state size.” He noted that China’s defiance has heightened international concerns about the security of maritime domain.

The Philippine victory at the Arbitral Tribunal is concrete proof that small nations like the Philippines can make our voices heard in a rules-based regime.

He said that as far as China was concerned international law matters only when it serves their interest.

The current administration has failed to use the landmark ruling that invalidated China’s “historic claims” on the South China Sea as a leverage to claim what is ours and fully explore and use the abundant resources in the West Philippine Sea.

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Instead, amid friendlier relations, China continued its military build-up in the South China Sea. They continue to destroy our marine resources, dictate the rules of the sea and bully our poor fishermen who are just making a livelihood in the Scarborough Shoal.

Dr. Go Ito of Meiji University asserted that the Philippines can better enforce the award by engaging like-minded partners like the United States and Japan to support the 2016 decision. He also noted that issues related to environmental protection in the South China Sea and maritime areas can also be raised to counter China.

What Filipinos want

In its effort to appease China and generate much-needed capital to finance its ambitious infrastructure program, the Duterte administration has adopted “silent diplomacy,” which prevents it from protesting the belligerent behavior of China in the South China Sea.

This is against the wishes of the majority of Filipinos, who clamor for a different approach. They want the Duterte administration to protect its territorial integrity and defend its claims in the West Philippine Sea. The results of a recent Pulse Asia survey showed that 73 percent of Filipinos want the current administration to assert our rights and protect our territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

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On the other hand, 36 percent of the Filipinos want our government to file a diplomatic protest against China amidst the reports of its continued militarization of the South China Sea. In addition, 22 percent believed that there is a need to strengthen military alliance with other countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia.The national survey by the Social Weather Stations likewise confirms these findings with four out five Filipinos or 81 percent saying that it is not right to do nothing about China’s intrusion in claimed territories.

The Filipinos are now taking their stand to protect our territorial integrity. Moreover, they want our government to do what it should do—use diplomatic protests as an expression of our dissatisfaction on various cases.

While the president reiterates that we need China to boost trade, tourism and infrastructural development, a small percentage of Filipinos believe that friendlier relations will promote stability in the South China Sea.

The surveys affirm a strong patriotism among Filipinos, that they want to protest against all unlawful and coercive practices of other states.

The Philippines is for the Filipinos to enjoy, benefit and explore. We should never allow others states to enhance its political and economic power at our expense.

We must protest what is unlawful, coercive and contrary to the correct principles that govern relations between states. Our people deserves a government that is willing to fight for their citizens’ future and not a government that is helpless and weak.

We must defend what is ours now before it is too late.


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




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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.

South China Sea: Latest Books

June 21, 2018
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Two recent books offer a helpful guide to Southeast Asia’s most complex maritime dispute.Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea & the Strategy of Chinese Expansionby Humphrey HawksleyOverlook Press, 2018, 304 pp., $29.95

Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Great Game in the South China Sea

edited by Anders Corr

Naval Institute Press, 2018, 336 pp., $34.95

Asian Waters, the new book by veteran Asia journalist Humphrey Hawksley, recently became my ideal travel companion on a long flight to Australia, en route to the South China Sea. For any other reader hoping to navigate those troubled waters, or seeking a broad overview of the geopolitical fault lines in Asia, Hawksley’s book provides an excellent guide.

The book’s journey can admittedly be a digressive one, at times wading way beyond Asian waters and far onto shore. Hawksley’s book touches on North Korea’s illicit nuclear program and much else besides. One chapter describes India’s stunted development, recounting in gruesome detail the slavery-like conditions in its brick kilns. Another chapter on Vietnam finds Hawksley meandering into an argument as to why, in the late 1970s, Vietnam was unnecessarily constrained by Cold War logic from taming the bloody Khmer Rouge in neighboring Cambodia. Such stories are certainly intriguing, flowing from Hawksley’s decades of first-hand reporting from the region.

Yet they aren’t central to the book’s main story, which concerns China’s rise, the contest for control of the South China Sea, and the larger great power game between the United States and China. That is the geopolitical story of the century. China is gradually enacting its own version of the Monroe Doctrine in the South China Sea. The United States is pushing back, including by conducting naval freedom of navigation operations, but has not come up with an effective overall strategic response. Meanwhile, China gradually expands its military reach—using salami-slicing tactics to create new facts on the ground (or rather at sea), building new islands, and coercing smaller neighbors such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Hawksley notes how the announcement of the U.S. “pivot to Asia” led to a rapid expansion of Chinese activity in the South China Sea, from the deft takeover of Scarborough Shoal close to the Philippines to the rapid move of a Chinese state-controlled oil rig into disputed areas with Vietnam. In these chapters, Hawksley’s on-the-ground reporting blends well with the geopolitics.

Consider, for instance, his meetings with a disgruntled Philippine fisherman, whose fishing grounds near Scarborough were taken over by China. During their initial encounter, the fisherman is visibly angry, exclaiming that “if America supports us, we should go to war with them.” But later, Hawksley visits the same fisherman after his village has been bought up by Chinese economic assistance and finds that his complaints are now subdued. In many ways, the anecdote is a microcosm for the choice made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Like the fisherman, Duterte opted for Chinese money rather than protecting Philippine sovereignty. He has thus tacitly accepted that China now controls the seas in proximity to the Philippines, which his predecessor Aquino had successfully challenged through an international court ruling based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In some passages, Hawksley comes out surprisingly starry-eyed about the People’s Republic of China. He repeatedly cites China’s “century of humiliation” as an historical fact without explaining that it is also centrally reinforced nationalistic propaganda employed by the Chinese Communist Party to knit the nation together. He goes overboard in a pointless chapter on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s appearance at the elite Davos gathering in January 2017, where he is described as a “moral torch of world leadership.” Hawksley’s moral compass seems to have gone spinning when he writes, “While Asia and China are talking about tearing down controls and borders, America and Europe are looking to tighten them.” In reality, there can be no comparison between democracies working to balance their humanitarian obligations to a huge global flow of refugees, and authoritarian China’s oppressive treatment of its Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, including the subjection of its population to conditions resembling concentration camps.

Despite these occasional errors in judgment, though, Hawksley’s book does effectively communicate the stakes of his subject. The South China Sea will be both a test of China’s coming of age as a great power and of the United States’ continued resolve as a Pacific power. And it could end in war, as previous historical experiences testify.

If you want a tougher approach to China, look no further than the edited volume Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Great Game in the South China Sea. Editor Anders Corr’s introduction slams China for its expansionism and argues—rightly, in my view—that President Obama’s military posture was too weak to counter the Chinese. It only gets too far-fetched when Corr tenuously attributes symbiotic territorial goals to China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

An equally strong-worded contribution comes from retired U.S. Navy Captain James Fanell. He writes of “China’s historically mistaken irredentist claims of sovereignty” in the South China Sea, seeing its efforts there as a building block in a “confrontational grand strategy” whose ultimate goal is “establishing China as a global power that seeks to control the international order.” In his reading, a stronger U.S. and regional military posture is the obvious remedy.

Great Powers, Grand Strategies also provides the perspectives of other regional players. Leszek Buszynski has an enlightening chapter on the regional grouping ASEAN, whose internal divisions have hampered its ability to play a meaningful conflict-mediating role in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has managed to use its ASEAN allies such as Cambodia and Laos to block even innocuous-sounding declarations. The depressing conclusion is that the period of China’s “good neighbor policy,” even providing token nods to ASEAN’s relevance, is over. ASEAN, an organization based on multilateralism, was not able to coalesce around full-fledged support for the clear-cut maritime law ruling in the Philippine arbitration case of 2016. The most concerned ASEAN countries like Vietnam now seek alternative hedging options such as increased military cooperation with the United States and Japan. By now, to paraphrase the Chinese Foreign Minister lecturing ASEAN in 2010, there is only one big country in Asia and a lot of small ones.

One regional power who warily watches China’s moves in the South China Sea is Japan. It has its own disputes with China in the East China Sea over the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diayou Islands. A Chinese-controlled South China Sea would hold negative security implications for Japan, which is the second-largest energy importer in Asia and thus dependent on uninterrupted sea lanes. Accordingly, Japan spoke out publicly in clear terms in defense of freedom of navigation following the arbitrational ruling that the Philippines brought against China in 2016, noting that it was “final and legally binding on the parties . . . under the provisions of UNCLOS.” ASEAN countries individually and as an organization were more hesitant to invoke the “legally binding” language on China. Still, Japan is not among the small group of countries who conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. Its own sea dispute with China also instills a sense of caution, combined with Japan’s continued restraint to deploy far from its shores even under its ever more “proactively pacifist” stance.

Three more chapters, respectively, cover India, Russia, and the European Union, all marginal players in the South China Sea. A chapter on the Republic of China (Taiwan), the inventor of the nine-dash-line, is conspicuously lacking and would have served the book well.

Gordon Chang describes India’s posture, yet seeks to make more out of India’s grand strategy than there is. In my reading, India’s interests in the South China Sea boil down to one long-delayed, unsuccessful oil exploration project with Vietnam. That project rankles China, and nothing more. Meanwhile China is successfully expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean.

Russia, for its part, desires to be a great power again in Asia, but demonstrates little muscle and consistency in pursuit of that goal. Russia supports China in trying to push the United States out of the region, but conversely hedges against China with continued arms sales to Vietnam, including submarines.

The European Union’s involvement remains aspirational. As a multilateral organization that frequently trumpets international law and peaceful multilateralism, it should in theory have been the first to defend the universal principle of freedom of navigation and the UN Law of the Sea. Unfortunately, the EU declaration on the arbitrational ruling in 2016 was as meek as ASEAN’s. EU member states collectively have large-scale commercial interests in the region, but few means and little political will to enforce them. On the harder edge, France and most recently the United Kingdom have conducted military naval transits through the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This could become the stepping stone for a stronger EU role, provided the European Union is not too distracted by its own urgent regional challenges.

Finally, the big looming national security question is the power play between the United States and China. China seeks to frame its actions as a counter to expanding U.S. force projection in the region. By contrast, American hawks such as Corr and Fanell find that the current U.S. posture has been a response to China’s provocations—and too timid a response at that. What, then, is the right posture for the United States to effectively counterbalance China?

The chapter by Sean Liedman provides an excellent historical overview of the U.S. role in the South China Sea and outlines three options. The first is a policy of continued gradual concessions, which is the current state of play. A second option would try to freeze the status quo, with the United States, among other things, becoming clearer about its willingness to defend the maritime interests of its treaty ally the Philippines. A third strategy would try to roll back the Chinese advances, including by targeted sanctions on Chinese companies involved in land reclamation. In that regard, the statement of Chinese General Xu Guangyu, quoted in Hawksley’s book, is ominous: “If the Americans try to remove us from the Spratly Islands . . . there will be war.”

The most likely strategy under the current Administration seems to land somewhere between options one and two, although the recent National Security Strategy makes it clear that raw power competition is a possibility for the U.S.-China relationship in the years to come. Trump himself has said little about the South China Sea, and his tweet that he was “surprised” by China’s coercion in the South China Sea, following Defense Secretary Mattis’s speech at Shangri-La on June 3, added little clarity. Perhaps this issue could become a transactional bargaining chip for Trump in a larger deal involving trade and North Korea, currently two higher-ranked U.S. priorities.

If, dear reader, you are in a hurry to read up on the South China Sea, go straight to Bill Hayton’s excellent chapter, which confirms his preeminence among interpreters of the region. It describes the situation from a Chinese and historical perspective, yet in an objective and matter-of-fact tone. Hayton explains how the advances in the South China Sea are not perceived as expansionism by China but a protection of its own territory based on a “nationalist reading of regional history.” Its confidence about its claim is so deeply embedded in Chinese policymaking and national consciousness that the “nine-dash line,” China’s cow tongue-shaped claim protruding more than 1,000 kilometers south into sea, has been added to Chinese passports. Provocatively, Chinese tourists have lately been seen arriving in Vietnam with “cow’s tongue” T-shirts, flaunting the inclusion of the South China Sea and its islands into Chinese territory.

Hayton pokes factual holes in China’s “false memory syndrome” and “imagined history,” which unfortunately is too often regurgitated by gullible Western scholars. In reality, the reefs in the South China Sea were a no-man’s land, home to semi-nomadic fishermen and pirates. In 1933, the French laid claim to the Spratlys through their presence in Indochina, with limited Chinese objections. At the time, the Paracels were perceived as China’s southernmost naval territory. It was only in the 1940s that the Nationalist government created the first maps showing the South China Sea as being Chinese territory, with an imprecise 11-dash line, and it was only in 2009 that China submitted the nine-dash line map as an official claim in the international arena. These historical facts are airbrushed out when Secretary General Xi Jinping says that “the South China Sea islands have been China’s territory since ancient times.” This is part of the triumphalist narrative of the Chinese Communist Party, which credits itself for finally ending the century of national humiliation.

Thus, as Hayton points out, China’s sense of entitlement is the root cause of potential conflict, even though it could spell the end of China’s carefully choreographed “peaceful rise.” In the fitting words of strategist Edward Luttwak, China’s “great-power autism” seems to be increasing. Equally so are the fears of China’s smaller neighbors, who dread what is to come in the South China Sea.

Published on: June 20, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

Philippines Seeks Fishing Agreement With China, Vietnam

June 21, 2018
Let’s share, Philippines tells Vietnam, China

A fisherman repairs his boat in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in a file photo by Reuters.

U.N. tribunal rules Scarborough Shoal a traditional fishing ground for three countries.

The Philippines wants Vietnam and China to sign a fishing agreement at Scarborough Shoal after a U.N. tribunal ruled the region was a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

In July 2016, a U.N. tribunal had not been able to reach a conclusion on the territorial issue, which decides the ownership of the shoal. However, it was able to decide on the maritime issue of fishing.

The Philippines’s Acting Chief Justice, Antonio Carpio, told The Philippine Star that China had refused to acknowledge that decision.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Carpio said: “We should maintain our position, because otherwise China will later on say, ‘You have been fishing there and you have accepted that you’re fishing there because we have allowed you out of the goodness of our heart.'”

The judge also added that if the fishing agreement is signed, it will be regulated to protect the area’s marine life.

Philippines could also sign a boundary agreement with Vietnam on the Spratly Islands. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had suggested the idea to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte could possibly sign that “median line” boundary agreement between the two countries, Carpio said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $3-trillion worth of goods passes every year. It has made substantial progress in fortifying its manmade islands in the past few years, which it says it has the right to defend. Vietnam calls the waterway the East Sea and has repeatedly stressed its sovereignty rights over the Paracel and Spraty Islands.

At the end of May 2018, the Philippines expressed “serious concern” over the presence of China’s strategic bombers in the disputed waters, but its response to the installation of missile systems was muted.

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Wants China Out

June 19, 2018
President Duterte wants China out of the Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
President Duterte walks with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano during the 120th anniversary of the Departmernt of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City yesterday.

Krizjohn Rosales
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – June 19, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants China out of the Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but yesterday reiterated he would not declare war over the maritime row as Beijing is not a pushover that can be scared easily.

Duterte, who has been accused of not doing enough to assert the Philippines’ maritime rights, said he was not ready to sacrifice the lives of soldiers and policemen for a war he could not win.

He also claimed that his administration has protested the actions of China in the West Philippine Sea but did not elaborate.“With regard to South China Sea, what do you want? What kind of pugnacious attitude would I have to adopt to convince the Chinese to get out? If I threaten them or file a thousand protests, which we did, we just did not publish them. We protested actually,” the President said during the 120th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City.

He added that China has adopted an intransigent attitude.

“But if you talk to them, they will listen,” he said. “I cannot hit China. China is no pushover. You cannot scare him, and even the United States has shown a little bit of apprehension… There’s always a parity now of arms and that. You know that if you go against China, Russia will join the fray,” the President said.

The scenario, he said, would only mean the explosion of all nuclear bombs and “it’s going to be goodbye for everybody.”

For him, striking a deal with China has benefits, hinting of a possible joint exploration between the two countries.

“We have a deal. I can import the arms, the guided missiles, I can fight better. Because there is a new art of war now, it is not in the open field… China is not my ace. But certainly I can have the arms. Something good will happen, I’m sure, and that will be when we start to dig or anybody else, start to dig the minerals there,” the President added.

He also downplayed reports that members of Chinese Coast Guard forcibly seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, saying it was a “barter” and not an outright seizure of fish.

Last week, Filipino fishermen confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard forcibly took their prime catch from Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The fishermen said the Chinese Coast Guard personnel gave them noodles, cigarettes and bottled water in exchange for the fish but these were not enough to feed their families.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua has assured the Philippines that the Chinese government would probe the incident and would punish “rotten apples” who are guilty of harassing the Filipino fishermen.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told diplomats and officials who have doubts and are having a hard time following Duterte’s foreign policy that “it’s not too late” to have a change of heart.

He praised the work of diplomats, officials and personnel of the DFA, saying it is an agency that never sleeps because of the tasks relating to foreign policies and the protection of rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).  – Pia Lee-Brago



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Satellite images show damage to South China Sea shoals — Some blaming Chinese clam diggers

June 17, 2018
Satellite images posted by Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, compare the situation of Panatag Shoal in 2009, 2014 and 2016. From left: the undisturbed coral reef segment in 2009; the visible reef damage allegedly caused by Chinese boats which use propellers to harvest giant clams in 2014, two years after Beijing took control of the area; and even more damage with deep scars outlined by the shadows (highlighted) in 2016, when 300 square meters of formerly pristine reef were turned into rubble.
Evelyn MacairanJanvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – June 17, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Publicly-available satellite images show the considerable damage supposedly made by Chinese clam diggers in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since 2012, an international maritime law expert posted on social media yesterday.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, shared satellite images taken from Google Earth that showed changes in the shoal since the Chinese took control of the resource-rich area six years ago.

“Using Google Earth, one can measure about 552 hectares of the back (inner) reef of Scarborough Shoal visibly destroyed by clam diggers since 2012,” he said in a post on his social media accounts.

“That’s visible damage, by the way. Only ground-truthing can provide a truly accurate assessment,” he added.

In an earlier post, Batongbacal posted three satellite images of the shoal which showed what he said are scars left by Chinese fishermen that used propellers to cut the reef in order to dislodge giant clams.

“The third, taken a few months after the arbitral award handed down in 2016, shows even more scars and indicating complete destruction of the area shown (approximately 2.5-kilometer distance from end to end),” he wrote.

“All this destruction took place with the China Coast Guard keeping watch over the shoal. In 2016, the CSIS AMTI (Center for Strategic and International Studies-Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative) estimated roughly half of the total reef area of Scarborough to have been destroyed,” he added.

Batongbacal noted that Chinese boats continued to carry out this activity until 2017 as seen by photos taken by the media during maritime air patrols.

He said the recent complaints of Filipino fishermen against Chinese Coast Guard taking their fish indicate activities that continuously damage the shoal.

Duterte told: Protect fishermen, not yourself

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate urged President Duterte yesterday to send the Philippine Coast Guard to Panatag Shoal to protect fishermen from alleged harassment by the Chinese.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on the Laity (ECL) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Duterte’s lackluster protest contributed to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, while Sen. Richard Gordon stressed the government cannot afford to remain docile in dealing with China if it wants to be taken seriously in its claims over its territories.

In his blog “Panaghoy,” Pabillo said Duterte is responsible for China’s encroachment into Philippine territory, bullying of Filipino fishermen and destruction of marine resources.

Pabillo pointed out that during Duterte’s term, China was able to bring in more military hardware to the disputed West Philippine Sea, which is also being claimed by other countries including the Philippines.

The Manila bishop said Duterte takes the matter lightly, even claiming that China promised to protect him from foreign detractors who might attempt to oust him from the presidency.

“Duterte and his administration have not made any fuss on China’s moves and aggressiveness. He just jokes about them and even makes innuendoes that China will protect him and not allow him to fall. If this is the message he sends out, China on its part will not hesitate to do what it wants,” Pabillo said.

“So again we can say that Duterte has a great influence in the Chinese aggression even if he does not have any direct hand in it,” Pabillo noted.

Pabillo said there is not even any strongly-worded protest against “our big neighbor” even if Filipino fishermen are already being harassed in their own territories.

“The Chinese have even the gall to claim that it is by their own goodwill that Filipinos fish in their (that is, our) seas,” Pabillo said.

Pabillo also pointed out that China is not a defender of human rights or the rule of law, does not accept international law if it is not to its advantage and uses its might to bully a poor neighbor, like what it is doing in the West Philippine Sea.

“China can easily bully us too if we allow it to gain any foothold in our territories and in our policies. Duterte too is playing the same game. He has no moral compass to guide him,” Pabillo said.

Even if Duterte has often said that he loves the Philippines, the bishop doubted his sincerity.

Pabillo said the Chief Executive has “no love of country… He uses situations just to his own advantage. He does not care about the Filipinos or about the future of the country.”

Zarate, for his part, said the President should send the PCG to accompany or escort the hapless fisherfolk at Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, or in other Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to show China that we are serious in defending our people as well as our territory. Our officials should always assert our independence, instead of them acting as apologists for China, which apparently now treats the Philippines as her vassal state,” Zarate said.

China took control of Panatag Shoal in 2012 after a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels. Beijing refused to honor an agreement mediated by the United States to end the standoff and made it appear that the Philippines backed down, the previous administration said.

Under the 2016 United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea, including a large part of the country’s exclusive economic zone, Panatag Shoal was declared a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese.

“China is apparently treating the Duterte administration as a pushover by doing what they want in Bajo de Masinloc and the rest of the (West Philippine Sea) without nary a whimper from Malacañang,” Zarate said.

“We are not saying that we declare war on China. But what we need is for Malacañang to stand up for our fisherfolk and our territory. We have already suggested in the past the filing of a diplomatic protest and increasing patrols of our seas, among others. One thing is clear though, the government must do something now to stop this invasion of China,” Zarate said.

Zarate also cautioned the US against exacerbating tension in the disputed sea.

“The situation in the West Philippine Sea is already getting serious. The US and China should stop their sabre rattling so as to lessen tension. The Philippines and other small claimants are in a situation akin to having two bullies in their backyard raring for a fight and thrashing each other without regard for the backyard or the houses nearby,” he said.

He urged claimant-states like the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia to work together to ease tension in the West Philippine Sea.

Fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan have reported that Chinese Coast Guard personnel have been taking part of their catch in Panatag Shoal area and that Chinese fishermen have destroyed coral reefs there.

Seek foreign help 

Gordon said the government must be more aggressive in dealing with China, which has been claiming areas in the disputed South China Sea and clearly establishing a military presence there.

In an interview over dwIZ, Gordon said the Philippines’ claims over the West Philippine Sea would not be taken seriously by China since it has no military might to speak of at all.

He recalled how China refrained from acting so aggressively when the US still had its military bases in the Philippines.

With the American bases long gone, Gordon said there is nothing standing in the way of China doing what it wants in the disputed waters.

Gordon urged the government to reach out to its allies such as the US, Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Australia for support.

He said the Philippines must make its presence felt in the West Philippine Sea by building its own structures there, whether these are airfields, buildings or any structure to show signs of occupation.

Gordon said diplomatic protests against China should also be filed if this has not yet been done in order to show that the country would not allow itself to be bullied.

Even if these actions could result in some form of retaliation from China, Gordon said the country should be ready to accept this because pushing back is the right thing to do.

Gordon said it is time the government takes the strengthening of the armed forces seriously because this has been neglected by all of the previous administrations.

He recalled how he pushed for the allocation of 13 percent of the collections from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law for building up the military, but this was not carried.

“You cannot have any bargaining chip if you don’t have a strong armed forces,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he has met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to find out what the military needs in the 2019 national budget.  – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy


Philippines/China: Senate Minority Leader says time to review ‘policy of appeasement’ toward China

June 14, 2018

The government should review its policy of “appeasement and accommodation” toward China, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, saying that such a stance did not necessarily translate into economic benefits for the country.

Drilon issued the statement amid reports of increasing China’s militarization of the South China Sea conflict and of its coast guard’s taking of Filipino fishermen’s catch on Scarborough Shoal.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to their bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017.

Etienne Oliveau/Pool Photo via AP

According to Drilon, President Rodrigo Duterte should reevaluate his policy of appeasement toward China as records showed that it was not resulting in increase in trade and investments and in tourist arrivals in the country.

“I think the government should review the policy of appeasement and accommodation on China,” Drilon said during the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

Drilon cited the case of Vietnam which had been vocal in asserting its rights and condemning China for its aggressiveness in staking its claim to the disputed waters, a region believed to be holding vast reserves of natural resources.

Drilon said that foreign direct investments from China for the year 2017 stood at $31 million, “very minimal” compared to the $600 million from Japan and $160 from the United States.

“Vietnam, in 2017, got from Chinese direct investment was US$2.170 billion contrasted to our US$31 million. That indicates the non-connection between the policy of appeasement as contrasted to Vietnam’s policy of confrontation,” he said.

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and China stood at $21.94 billion in 2016 while that between Vietnam and China was at $71.85 billion, he said.

Tourist arrivals in Vietnam from China reached four million in 2017 while in the Philippines it was only 968,447.

Duterte has been trying to forge closer ties to China in an effort to court Chinese money and investments in the country.

He has also chosen to take a non-confrontational approach to China’s increasing militarization of the South China Sea dispute and to back-burn a 2016 United Nations-backed tribunal ruling invalidating much of Beijing’s expansive claims to the disputed seas.

Drilon also urged the Senate to conduct an audit of the country’s foreign policy, saying that the chamber is the partner of the executive department in conducting the country’s foreign relations.

“It is only correct that the Senate be informed of how foreign relations are being conducted; otherwise we will be in the dark, and therefore, I support that proposed review of our relationship with China,” Drilon, a former justice secretary and Senate president, said.

“We are making the call addressed to the chair of the committee to assert the Senate’s role as a partner in the conduct of foreign affairs. The Senate lead should take a serious look at this and assert the role of the Senate in this area.”

Drilon said that the Philippines should be more assertive of its rights in the South China Sea and of the 2016 ruling.

Aside from China and the Philippines, a host of regional countries also have competing claims to the seas, through which $3 trillion worth of trade annually passes.




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Philippines demands China stop taking fishermen’s catch — “With China here, there is only China’s law.”

June 11, 2018

The Philippines on Monday demanded that China stop confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea, calling the practice “unacceptable”.

The remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman were a rare public rebuke from Manila, which has taken a non-confrontational approach with Beijing over the resource-rich waterway.

© AFP/File | Filipino fishermen say the Chinese coast guard is seizing their catch at the disputed Scarborough Shoal

China controls several reefs in the sea including Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing seized from Manila in 2012 and is just 230 kilometres (143 miles) from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

China claims almost the entire sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, despite competing partial claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque on Monday confirmed a report that Chinese Coast Guard personnel seized the catch of Filipino fishermen in the shoal in May in violation of an agreement between the two nations allowing Filipinos to fish there.

“We are demanding that the Chinese take steps to stop the coast guard from doing these acts,” Roque told reporters.

“That is unacceptable. That is why we informed the Chinese we will not allow fish to be taken from our countrymen.”

The Chinese foreign ministry said it was investigating the reports and authorities will “seriously” deal with them if they are confirmed.

“Out of friendship, China has made proper arrangements for Filipino fishermen,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

“The Chinese coast guard is monitoring relevant waters to ensure peace and order in the area, and also offers humanitarian assistance to the Philippines fishermen,” Geng said.

“The Chinese coast guard always abides by the law.”

Duterte’s administration rejects criticism that its response to Chinese activities in the hotly contested waters has been weak.

China in May reportedly deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the Spratly Islands and flew nuclear-capable bombers to a base in another disputed part of the sea.

Duterte’s aides have said previously the Philippines is taking “all diplomatic action” to protect its claims while insisting it would not anger China by engaging in “megaphone diplomacy”.

Manila, which has pursued trade deals and investment from China, instead holds regular talks with Beijing on the dispute.

On Monday Roque refused to describe the latest incident as harassment, adding the Chinese Coast Guard gave the Filipino fishermen noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange for their catch.

The fishermen, who appeared with Roque in the news briefing, said they were powerless to stop repeated seizures by the Chinese.

“The (Chinese coast guard personnel) board our boats, look at where we store the fish and take the best ones. We cannot do anything because their huge vessels are there,” said Romel Cejuela, one of the fishermen.


Chinese “Taking Fish” From Philippine Fishermen — Local fishermen called on the Philippine government to help

June 11, 2018
Filipino fishermen ask gov’t to act on ‘barter’ with Chinese coast guard

Fisherman Romel Cejuela says the China has control over Scarborough Shoal. PH Coast Guard is nowhere to be seen. But Cejuela belies reports of harassment. He says they often barter – noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange for fish.

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – June 11, 2018 – 3:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — Local fishermen called on the Philippine government to address the fish-taking incident with Chinese coast guard personnel at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday confirmed that the Chinese coast guard has been conducting a sort of barter trade with Filipino fishermen in the traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

Speaking in a Malacañang press briefing, fisherman Romel Cejuela narrated how the Chinese have been boarding their boats and taking away their catch from Scarborough Shoal.

“Gusto lang namin ipaabot sa ating gobyerno limitahan sila na ano lalapit doon sa amin ‘yung maghihingi ng isda (We just want to ask the government to limit them from asking fish from us),” Cejuala told reporters.

The fisherman clarified there was no harassment but said the Chinese coast guard personnel were insistent on taking their fish from them.

“Linawin lang namin na wala naman ginawang pangha-harass sa amin kumbaga ano lang parang mapilit silang kukuha ng isda kasi hindi naman kami magkaintindihan ‘yung ano lang doon ‘fish’ ‘yun lang tapos aakyat sila sa amin (We will just clarify that there was no harassment, they were just insistent to take our fish but because we cannot understand each other they just say ‘fish’ and then they will go aboard our boat),” Cejuela said.

“Titignan nila ‘yung mga lalagyan namin, titignan nila yung magagandang isda. Wala naman kami magagawa kasi nakikisama lang muna kami (They will look at our container, they will look at the best fish. We can’t do anything because we were just trying to get along with them),” he added.

Cejuela compared themselves to a “crushed tin can” if they stand up against the Chinese.

Sometimes, he said, the Chinese would give noodles, cigarettes and water to the Filipino fishermen in exchange for their best catch.

The fisherman expressed concern that the Chinese may once again block them from entering the shoal if a misunderstanding would ensue between the Philippines and China over the incident.

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“Hindi naman siguro ‘yun totally harassment. Nirereklamo lang namin na siguro na mag-usap sila na anuhin ‘yung coast guard nila na maghintay lang sila kung gusto nila maghingi ng isda ‘wag sila aakyat sa bangka namin at maghalungkat pipiliin pa nila ‘yung magagandang isda (That’s not totally harassment. We’re just asking them to talk to the Chinese coast guard, instruct them to wait for the fish and stop climbing on our boat and choosing the best fish),” the fisherman said.

This happens every time Filipino fishermen go to Scarborough Shoal to catch fish, according to Cejuela.

The fisherman also lamented that there are no Philippine vessels stationed around the area while the Chinese coast guard which has constant presence in the area.

Roque, on the other hand, said that he and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano already talked to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua about the Chinese coast guard’s harassment of Filipino fishermen.

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Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and President Duterte. FILE photo

Beijing should discipline erring Chinese coast guard personnel, according to Roque.

“In-assure naman po ako ng ambassador na hindi po ito polisiya ng Tsina, na nag-iimbestiga ang Beijing at kung mapatunayan ang sinabi ng mga mangingisda ay mayroong kaparusahan na ipapatol dito sa mga Chinese coast guard na ito (The ambassador assured me that this is not a policy of China, that Beijing is looking into it and if proven that the statements of the fishermen are true, there will be punishment for these Chinese coast guard personnel),” Roque said.




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Philippines: Are Filipino Fishermen Welcome In The South China Sea? — Anybody brave enough to ask China the rules?

May 30, 2018
Cayetano hails fishermen’s access to South China Sea (West Philippine Sea); Alejano questions continued harassment
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – May 30, 2018 – 12:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano have conflicting takes on the state of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

While the country’s top diplomat said that Filipino fishermen can now sail freely, the Magdalo lawmaker revealed that the fishermen still experience harassment from the Chinese.

Cayetano, in a briefing at the House of Representatives, said that it is a gain for the Philippines under the Duterte administration that local fishermen are allowed to fish in the disputed seas.

“There is still slight harassment but in the past it was total harassment. Before, our ships cannot enter but now they can access the maritime environmental protection area,” Cayetano told the House panel.

While Cayetano sees “slight harassment” as an improvement, it remains a point of contention for Alejano.

Alejano agreed that Filipino fishermen now have access to Scarborough Shoal but their activities are limited.

“In fact, when they fish there, their catch are being inspected and the best fish are being taken away from them there. If you are a fisherman, your time is wasted, your effort is wasted,” Alejano said.

The Magdalo lawmaker also questioned the “red line” that the Philippines imposed on China not to encroach on Scarborough Shoal.

“I don’t believe that we have control over there because they (China) are now controlling Scarborough Shoal so how can you say that we have control?” Alejano said.

Earlier this week, Cayetano said that the Philippines has identified actions that would be considered unacceptable in the South China Sea amid the maritime dispute between the two countries.

Aside from the Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines also warned China against attempting to remove the Philippine Navy ship anchored near Ayungin Shoal.

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

According to Cayetano, President Rodrigo Duterte would be willing to wage a war against Beijing if they break these conditions.

“That’s what the president said. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war. He said: ‘Bahala na.’ He will go to war. So those were our red lines,” Cayetano said last Monday.




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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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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.