Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough Shoal’

China Steps In Where U.S. is Absent in Asia

March 28, 2017

Beijing builds its influence in Asia by default, not design, as Trump retreats

 

China is building its influence in Asia more by default than design, making the region’s power brokers nervous as the U.S. retreats.

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Updated March 28, 2017 6:06 a.m. ET

BOAO, China — For more than half a century, Washington has set the economic agenda for the Asia-Pacific, where global wealth, technology and military power are concentrating.

Today, increasingly, Beijing does.

That’s not because its economic model…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-drifts-into-a-u-s-vacuum-in-asia-1490695181

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China Touts Its Own Trade Pact as U.S.-Backed One Withers
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-touts-its-own-trade-pact-as-u-s-backed-one-withers-1479811275

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From Sputnik

Is China Filling the Economic Vacuum in the Pacific?

© REUTERS/ David Gray

“The bilateral relationship between China and the United States is the single most important one for the prosperity and security and stability of the world, and the fact that we have very strong relationships, but different relationships — different in context and in terms of history — with both the United States and China, that is a great strength.”

Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: AAP

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

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Premier Li agreed, saying China-Australia co-operation was not targeted “at any third party” and would benefit other countries and regions

“It is China’s consistent position that all countries, big or small, are equal members of the world, and there needs to be mutual respect and co-operation on an equal footing,” Premier Li said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Australia and New Zealand this week, while US relations with Australia cool over the migrant deal negotiated by the former US administration. Will China fill the vacuum in the region? Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker invited China expert Keith Bennett to discuss the issue.

China Expected to Import $8 Trillion Worth of Goods in 2016-2020

US President Donald Trump’s relations with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a rough start. During their first phone talk, an apparently emotional exchange, Trump declined to fulfill the deal negotiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama in which the US pledged to take more than 1,000 immigrants from Australian detention centers.

“The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal,” Trump tweeted after the phone call to Turnbull, which he reportedly ended abruptly

In general, it becomes more and more likely that the US is disconnecting itself from active foreign policy and concentrating on its internal affairs. This allows for other nations to seek new opportunities for trade that had been unavailable for them. One might think the time is ripe for China to approach the Pacific with propositions of trade.

However, China already is significantly involved in trade with New Zealand and Australia, according to China expert Keith Bennett.

“China has very good relations with the two countries, at least on the economic level,” Bennet told Becker. “Politically, it’s more complicated, but this is not an unprecedented visit.”

According to various data from open sources, China’s share in New Zealand trade seems to be already twice as big as that of the US. The same goes for Australia, whose exports to China are several times larger than those to the US.

This creates a complicated situation in which Australia is a close military ally of the US, but its economic interests naturally go along with China and other Pacific nations, says Bennett.

“There is a dichotomy between the economic factor and a political and military security factor,” he says.

According to Bennett, the United States relies heavily on political and military force to prevent Australia’s drift towards China, even using political means to organize a “soft coup” to get rid of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Obama administration also increased its military presence in Australia for the very same purpose: to send a signal to Australia not to get too friendly with China, Benett explains.

Given all that, it would be hard to imagine a sharp move by Australia toward China, but there are signs it could happen under the Trump administration. The United States under Trump seems to be stepping back from its role of global director of trade and finances — at least for capitalist countries — a role the US has taken since 1945 Bretton Woods agreement. Bennet said this shift by the US could create a situation in the Pacific in which close trade ties of those nations with China could finally result in corresponding political closeness.

“What we are entering is a very unstable period of convulsion and realignment,” Bennet noted. “So it’s hard to make predictions, but I think… that economic changes will come first and political changes will have to catch up.”

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201703251051966155-china-new-zealand-australia-trade/

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http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/chinese-premier-meets-with-malcolm-turnbull-downplays-south-china-sea-tensions/news-story/bb41415200c089f62847e2c9b2ab0c9f

South China Sea Update: Philippines and China To Solidify Bilateral Deal in May 2017 — Scarborough Shoal? Depends on who you ask. — ASEAN deal soon…

March 27, 2017

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING — Mar 27, 2017, 4:05 AM ET

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

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

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CHINA’S SCARBOROUGH PLANS STILL UNCLEAR — China may or may not be planning to build an environmental monitoring station on the disputed Scarborough Shoal, depending on who you ask.

While the top official in the administrative region covering the island says preparatory work for the station is a priority, the foreign ministry says there is no such plan.

The Philippines, which also claims the shoal, has sought a clarification from Beijing.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that reports about the facility on Scarborough had been checked and were untrue.

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China’s Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

However, the official Hainan Daily newspaper had earlier quoted Xiao Jie, the top official in Sansha City, as saying that preparatory work on the station was among the government’s top priorities for 2017. Calls to the region’s government seeking clarification have rung unanswered.

Such a move would likely renew concerns among Beijing’s neighbors over its assertive territorial claims in the strategically crucial South China Sea.

Beijing seized tiny, uninhabited Scarborough in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels.

China’s construction and land reclamation work in the South China Sea have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. and others, who accuse Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its claims. China says the seven man-made islands in the disputed Spratly group, complete with their airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes.

Prior to the announcement, South China Sea tensions had eased somewhat after Beijing erupted in fury last year following an international arbitration tribunal ruling on a case filed by the Philippines. The verdict invalidated China’s sweeping territorial claims and determined that China had violated the rights of Filipinos to fish at Scarborough Shoal.

China has since allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the shoal following an improvement in ties between the countries, but it does not recognize the tribunal’s ruling as valid.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, which straddles one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and gas.

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CHINA’S PREMIER REASSURES ON FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION, OVERFLIGHT — On a visit to Australia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered reassurances on the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Li, China’s second ranked official, said China would work with Australia to ensure freedom of navigation in distributed regions.

China will “never seek hegemony and dominance,” Li said, adding China needed a stable world environment to grow its economy.

Li was welcomed to Parliament House by a 19-gun salute and distant protest chants of anti-China demonstrators who were kept well away from the Chinese leader.

While Australia does not take an active participant in the South China Sea disputes, it is a close security partner of the United States, while also relying on China as its biggest export market. During Li’s visit, he and Turnbull oversaw the signing of agreements that will expand their 2-year-old free trade pact. China also agreed to expand its market for Australian beef exporters.

Turnbull rejected arguments that Australia must choose between the U.S. and China, despite growing tensions between the economic superpowers.

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PHL, China to discuss South China Sea bilateral mechanism in May

Published March 27, 2017 10:54pm
The Philippines and China are expected to discuss the bilateral mechanism on the South China Sea issue this coming May, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Monday statement.
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Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, in his courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, had said that China had been looking forward to discussing the matter with the Philippines.
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 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) shakes hands with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, last August. Photo: EPA
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“He conveyed that China looked forward to the convening, in May 2017, of the first meeting of the bilateral mechanism set up to properly handle the SCS issue,” explained Abella. “Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided.”
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Zhao had also said that China was determined to work with ASEAN member states in finalizing the Code of Conduct Framework on the South China Sea mid-2017.
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The Chinese ambassador also mentioned the successful meeting between Philippine and Chinese Coast Guard committees, and China’s readiness to implement the agreed memorandum of understanding signed during Duterte’s Beijing visit last October.
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“He (Zhao) looks forward to the Philippine Coast Guard delegation’s visit to China to hammer out actions, activities and new engagements to ensure that SCS is a sea of cooperation,” Abella added.
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Additionally, the Chinese ambassador looked forward to the resumption of bilateral defense cooperation between the two nations.
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Aside from the South China Sea, Zhao and Duterte also discussed infrastructure projects and anti-poverty programs.
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“H.E. Zhao hoped that the infrastructure projects in the pipeline will soon be launched, implemented, and completed within the term of PRRD,” said Abella. “H.E. Zhao reported that China hopes for PH to soon utilize donations for anti-poverty programs and anti-illegal drugs operations.” — DVM, GMA News
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China’s Plan For Asia and Onward To Iran — Involves Domination on Land and Sea — “Without firing a shot. That’s Sun Tzu.”

March 26, 2017

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China’s “One Belt, One Road” master plan for Asian land and sea trade starts and ends with China itself.

Vietnamese in Hanoi are already starting to chit chat about what to do when Vietnam becomes a Chinese province.

Vietnamese with money and other assets are already heading to Canada, Australia, Europe and the U.S.

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President Duterte in the Philippines seems to have some kind of secret accord with China. There must be a big chunk of gold or currency hidden for Duterte somewhere.

Our sources in Asia tell us everyone with resources is taking an angle to make what they can from the notoriously corrupt Chinese in case there is a bloodless takeover by China.

The Chinese are already fortifying the South China Sea, intimidating Singapore, and moving in with Malaysia.  Maybe Mr. Najab can have his 1MDB debt “fixed” by Chinese backers….

Pakistan is already prepared to stand with China as the Indian Ocean Super Power.

Iran has helped China and Russia immensely in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and elsewhere. Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal took worries about Iran as a dangerous nuclear power out of the headlines as they hone their ground and sea forces and perfect the Republican Guards. They are still a dangerous nuclear power. Just more discrete — or below the radar in the nuclear research arena.

Isreal seems to have fewer and fewer friends.

Yet Donald Trump pledged to stand behind Israel.

But he also pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare — so let’s wait and see what he is really able to accomplish….

From the Peace and Freedom Strategy Team, March 26, 2017

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 (Chinese Naval Base)

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What is China’s Plan For Asia? —

March 26, 2017

Moved to:

https://johnib.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/chinas-plan-for-asia-and-onward-to-iran-involves-domination-on-land-and-sea-without-firing-a-shot-thats-sun-tzu/

 

South China Sea: One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on the Verge of Collapse

March 26, 2017

South China Sea’s most important resource – its fish – is disappearing

Major disputes in the South China Sea are putting critical habitat—and the food supply of millions—at risk.

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Dock workers use cranes to off-load frozen tuna from a Chinese-owned cargo vessel at the General Santos Fish Port, in the Philippines. Tuna stocks in the South China Sea have plummeted in recent years because of overfishing. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES — Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

“Here there’s none of that,” he says, looking toward the Sulu Sea, the Philippine sea where he’s been fishing for the past four years. His two boats, traditional Filipino outriggers called bancas, float in the shallow water nearby, new coats of white paint drying in the sun.

Tubo is sitting on a wooden bench in front of his home, which perches on stilts above the bay. One of his four kids wraps an arm around his leg. Worn T-shirts and shorts flutter on clotheslines behind them.


A worker carries a line-caught yellowfin tuna at the General Santos Fish Port, which is known as the “tuna capital of the Philippines.” The South China Sea, through which tuna migrate, produces more fish than almost anywhere else, but it has been severely overfished and is nearing collapse. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Glancing over at his wife, Leah, and the other children, he says, “It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now.”

Tubo lives in Puerto Princesa, a city of 255,000 on Palawan, a long finger of an island that faces the Sulu Sea and the Philippine archipelago to the east and the contested South China Sea to the west. He’s one of the nearly 320,000 fishermen in the Philippines who have traditionally made their livelihoods from the South China Sea—and one of a growing number who are now fishing in other waters because of increasing Chinese interference. Beginning around 2012, China adopted a more assertive posture in the sea’s long-running territorial dispute, building military installations on contested islands and increasingly using its coast guard to intimidate fishermen from other countries.

It was after a Chinese coast guard vessel attacked a friend’s fishing boat with water cannons that Christopher Tubo stopped fishing the South China Sea.

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Filipino fishermen aboard the Ninay haul in sardines and scad in national waters near the South China Sea. The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have increased competition for dwindling fish stocks of all species.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat,” he says, describing how the Chinese attempt to keep fishermen from other countries out of the disputed area. “If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families.”

“As they see it, it’s theirs now, and Filipinos are forbidden,” says Henry Tesorio, an elected councilor for a fishing village in Puerto Princesa.

Vietnamese fishermen could say the same thing. Some 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son, 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland, reported being attacked by Chinese boats in 2015, according to local Vietnamese government officials.


The lights on the Melissa attract fish toward the boat and up to the surface. A storm later forced the boat to return to Quezon, a fishing village on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. Fishermen from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and elsewhere all fish the South China Sea.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Tubo’s decision not to fish in the South China Sea speaks to the rising tensions in the region, which are causing fierce competition for natural resources. Encompassing 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers), the South China Sea is of critical economic, military, and environmental importance: $5.3 trillion in international trade plies its waters annually; in terms of biodiversity, it is thought of as the marine equivalent of the Amazon rain forest; and its fish provide food and jobs for millions in the 10 countries and territories that surround it.

Of those, seven—China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia—have competing claims to the sea’s waters and resources. So it’s understandable why all eyes have been focused on the political and military wrangling. If war broke out over these claims, it would pit two superpowers, China and the United States—a longtime Philippine ally and guarantor of freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean—against each other.

South China Sea map. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies

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But another less publicized, also potentially disastrous, threat looms in the South China Sea: overfishing. This is one of the world’s most important fisheries, employing more than 3.7 million people and bringing in billions of dollars every year. But after decades of free-for-all fishing, dwindling stocks now threaten both the food security and economic growth of the rapidly developing nations that draw on them.

China argues that it has a right to almost the entire South China Sea because it says it has historically exercised jurisdiction in that area, which China delineates on maps with a U-shaped “nine-dash” line (see map). Every other disputant in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, bases its maritime claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that defines maritime zones.

Opposing Beijing’s expansionist claims, in 2013 the Philippines brought a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a forum for settling international disputes—in The Hague, Netherlands. China refused to participate. On July 12, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost all its claims, declaring that China forfeited the possibility of any historically based rights when it ratified the UN convention in 1996. China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

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Crew members take shelter from a storm aboard the Ninay. Filipino fishermen have reported increasing interference from Chinese coast guard vessels in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea for itself.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Competition for fish has exacerbated the dispute, and the dispute has intensified competition among fishermen, further depleting fish. Some parts of the South China Sea have less than a tenth of the stocks they had five decades ago. And high-value fish such as tuna and grouper are becoming scarcer.

“What we’re looking at is potentially one of the world’s worst fisheries collapses ever,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies the region’s reefs.

.“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species that will collapse, and they’ll collapse relatively quickly, one after another.”

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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As coastal waters are depleted, fishermen have been forced to venture farther offshore and into disputed waters to make a living. China has seized this as an opportunity to bolster its claims by aggressively supporting its fishermen. Beijing has consolidated the coast guard, militarized fishing fleets, and begun offering subsidies for bigger and better boats, water, and fuel. There’s even a special subsidy specifically for fishermen to fish in the contested Spratly Islands, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south.

“The only reason that smaller [Chinese] fishermen go out to the Spratlys is because they’re paid to do so,” says Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Studies. This extra pressure has sped up the depletion of fish stocks, he says.

The Chinese have also been building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys to support military installations there. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” says Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics and maritime security at the National War College, in Washington, D.C. “China is trying to enforce its sovereignty through the construction of these islands and by denying other countries access to natural resources.”

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A couple sits outside a home built over the water in Quezon, where most people have family members who work as fishermen. Overfishing has put the livelihoods of many Filipinos at risk.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr.—until recently the mayor of the Kalayaan municipality, which includes islands in the Spratlys—is an outspoken advocate for the Philippines’ claims. Bito-onon and I met in the island’s cramped satellite office in Puerto Princesa, where he had a gigantic map of the South China Sea marked up with his own handwritten labels and colored dots showing which countries claim which features.

He pulls up Google Earth on his laptop and finds Thitu, an island in the Spratlys known locally as Pag-asa, where about 200 Filipinos, including a small number of troops, live part-time, their presence demonstrating the Philippines’ claim to the island. Rice, clothing, soap, and other necessities must be brought in by boat or airlift, and two government-owned generators are the only source of electricity. Bito-onon points out just how close Chinese-claimed Subi Reef is to Thitu. So close, he says, that on a clear day residents can see it on the horizon.

Even closer, though, are Chinese fishing boats, which he says have fished the reefs empty. “For the past three years, [the Chinese] never leave,” Bito-onon says from behind his laptop, now displaying satellite imagery of reefs around Thitu. “Chinese fishing boats come and go, replacing each other,” he says, but there are never not boats within sight of the island.

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A Filipino fisherman wades from boat to shore with part of the crew’s catch. Fishermen who go to the South China Sea report that their catches have gotten smaller in recent years. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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The Navotas Fish Port in Manila is the largest in the Philippines. The markets at the port trade in seafood from freshwater farms, national waters, and international waters, including the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
Gilbert Elefane, the Filipino captain of a tuna boat based in the municipality of Quezon, on Palawan, says he now sees up to a hundred boats, many Chinese, on a single two-week fishing trip in the South China Sea. Just a few years ago, he says he’d have seen no more than 30.

Beijing has provided military training and sophisticated GPS and communications technology to its fishermen so they can call in the coast guard if they have a run-in with a foreign law enforcement vessel or alert the coast guard of the presence of fishermen from other countries.

In the face of China’s island building, Vietnam has done some small-scale land reclamation of its own in an attempt to bolster its capacity in the Spratlys. Its efforts, however, have been less destructive than China’s.

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A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

As long as the conflict in the South China Sea continues, it will be nearly impossible to regulate fishing.

When one country tries to protect its fishing grounds, tensions flare. In March, for instance, Indonesian maritime law enforcement officials arrested eight Chinese on charges of illegal fishing. The fishermen were less than three miles (five kilometers) from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. The Natunas themselves are not in dispute, but the waters north of them, which are particularly rich in gas, have become a new flashpoint. Under international law they’re Indonesian, but they partially overlap with China’s nine-dash line claims, so China says it has a right to fish there.

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A pregnant woman wades in the dirty water near the Navotas Fish Port. The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on fishing and the seafood trade, as do most of the countries around the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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When Indonesia’s vessel began towing the Chinese boat back to port, an armed Chinese coast guard ship appeared and began ramming the Chinese boat to break it free. The Indonesians were forced to let the boat go and retreat.

“It’s unclear whose laws you’re enforcing when you have seven overlapping sets of fisheries laws,” Poling says. “States have a vested interest in purposely violating fishing laws of other states.”

That’s because abiding by another country’s fishing law is tantamount to accepting that that country has jurisdiction over that region, which no country has been willing to do.

In 2012, a Philippine navy warship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, about 138 miles (220 kilometers) from the Philippine coast, on suspicion of illegal fishing and poaching rare corals, giant clams, and sharks. A Chinese coast guard ship interfered to prevent the arrests, forcing a standoff. After 10 weeks both sides agreed to withdraw, but once the Philippines left, China remained, effectively seizing control of the shoal.

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A fisherman at the General Santos Fish Port carries a yellowfin tuna caught in the South China Sea. Fishermen say the fish they catch now are smaller than before.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

 

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Workers at the Navotas Fish Port unload and sort fish from commercial boats that have returned from the South China Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the land and sea disputes in the region.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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As Filipino fishermen have seen their catches—and the fish themselves—getting smaller, they’ve increasingly been resorting to dangerous, illegal fishing methods. Blast fishing, which Filipinos call “bong bong” fishing, involves setting off homemade bombs underwater to kill dozens of fish at one time. Cyanide fishing, which involves squirting fish in the face with poison to stun them, is used to catch live reef fish to supply high-end live seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Both practices kill coral and other fish, collateral damage that’s pushing the sea ever closer to an overfishing crisis.

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Dock workers at the Navotas Fish Port sort through mussels. If the South China Sea fishery were to collapse, it would threaten the food supply of millions. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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China’s island building and giant clam poaching have caused most of them documented reef destruction in the South China Sea, an area totaling 62 square miles (163 square kilometers). Island building grinds up corals for use as foundation material, smothers reefs that become the base of islands, and creates sediment plumes that suffocate nearby reefs. Dredging to deepen ports also causes serious damage. And poaching of giant clams entails grinding up corals to loosen the shells from the reef.

“It’s quite possible we’re seeing a serious decline in about half of the reefs,” John McManus, the marine biologist, says. “That’s what I expect will happen, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s just total destruction.”

When a reef is destroyed, the ecosystem unravels. Reef fish lose their habitat, and pelagic fish such as tuna lose an important source of food. Furthermore, reefs in the South China Sea are connected. Fish larvae from one reef ride the current across the sea to repopulate another reef. If a reef disappears, so does that source of larvae, increasing the chance that local extirpations of fish species will be permanent.

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Dock workers and fishermen buy food from a street vendor at the Navotas Fish Port, in Manila. Some 320,000 Filipinos fish the South China Sea, and many more work on the docks, as fish packers, and as seafood traders, among other jobs.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

McManus says that many of the damaged reefs will be able to recover in a decade or two—if the island building and destructive giant clam poaching stop. He champions the idea of a “peace park,” a kind of marine protected area where all countries would put a freeze on their claims and halt all activities, like island building, that bolster those claims.

Experts also say cooperative regional management could go a long way toward making the South China Sea fishery sustainable. It would require dramatic cutbacks in the number of fishing boats and restrictions on fishing methods such as the use of huge fishing vessels that use powerful lights at night to attract tuna. All this would in turn mean helping fishermen find other ways to earn a living.

Under a sustainable management plan, tuna and mackerel could recover 17-fold by 2045, Rashid Sumaila and William Cheung at the University of British Columbia predicted in a 2015 report. Reef fish would recover up to 15 percent, and the catch and value of reef fish would also increase. Sharks and groupers, which are also high-value fish, would make a comeback too.

But Poling, of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, questions whether such a plan will happen in time. “What that requires is setting aside the disputes,” he says. “It’s possible—it’s just not likely. In order to have a successful joint management system, the first step is to agree on what area you’re talking about.” With China clinging to its nine-dash line while other countries base their claims on international law, agreement just won’t be possible, he says.

As it now stands, the South China Sea’s most important resource—its fish—is disappearing, and countries are either passively standing by or actively encouraging their fishermen to take more.

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Children fish at dusk in the fishing community of Quezon in the Philippines. Fishermen here ply their trade in national waters and the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Aurora Almendral contributed to this report.

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Coming Tuesday: China’s giant clam poaching is decimating reefs in the South China Sea.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

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

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and water

The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Chinese moving to dominate the South China Sea — An emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

March 26, 2017

A sea in peril

While rival claimants jockey for strategic position in the South China Sea, an emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

MARCH 25, 2017

China will soon host a dialogue with Southeast Asian nations aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea. But it’s not clear whether the talks will help to save a marine environment that in parts is facing collapse.

While diplomats discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for rival claimants in the vast waterway, scientists say that the region’s marine environment also deserves attention, partly because overfishing on all sides is depleting fish stocks.

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing.

Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

Fishermen unload baskets of fish as they dock their boats at a port under the alert of Typhoon Kalmaegi, in Sanya, Hainan province September 14, 2014. China's marine forecast station issued a yellow alert as typhoon Kalmaegi is expected to enter the South China Sea on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR464V0

Overfished: Fishermen unload their catch in Hainan province, China. Photo: Reuters

According to The Nature Conservancy, overfishing is a common problem around the world. Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Conservancy, explains that “when too few individual fish of breeding age remain, they simply don’t produce well …”

It is what she describes as “a lose-lose situation for both fishermen and conservationists.” The stakes are particularly high in the case of the South China Sea.

High stakes

Occupying more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is one of the world’s five leading fishing zones, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The fishery employs more than 3 million people, contributes heavily to the global fish trade and provides a major source of vital protein to millions of people living in the nations that depend on it.

In addition, experts believe that huge reserves of oil and gas lie unexploited beneath the disputed waters.

Fishing boats are seen anchored in a bay as Typhoon Chan-Hom approaches southern China, in Wenling, Zhejiang province, July 8, 2015. Chinese authorities have suspended train services, closed schools and bought trawlers back to port before two typhoons in the south and east of the country make landfall later this week, state media said. Picture taken July 8, 2015. REUTERS/William Hong CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX1JNFJ

Seafaring: Chinese fishing boats anchored in the bay. Photo: Reuters/William Hong

US Air Force Captain Adam Greer, who has done research partly funded by the National Defense University, says that the stakes in the South China Sea can be summed up by a “3 P’s rule”—politics, petroleum, and protein.

In an article published in The Diplomat, Greer argues that the protein derived from fish may be the most important factor driving competition in the South China Sea.

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

The best news for the environment, one leading American scientist says, was a Chinese decision early this year to enforce regulations calling for a halt to the harvesting and processing by Chinese fishermen of giant clams in the South China Sea.

John McManus, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, said that the decision, announced by China’s southern Hainan province, could mark a major step toward helping to preserve and restore a vital part of the marine environment.

The giant clams are embedded in coral reefs that protect small fish from predators. The coral reefs also play a role in replenishing fish stocks.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

According to McManus, Chinese poachers using boat propellers to dig up reefs and uncover the clams have caused widespread damage to many of the reefs. Chinese dredging aimed at gathering sand and gravel to build artificial islands has caused further serious damage.

The highly valued shells of the clams have been carved much like elephant ivory into intricate ornaments for sale to Chinese tourists visiting Hainan Island. Some Chinese regard the meat from the clams as a rare delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the biggest factor in reducing the giant clam shell trade may be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“As the crackdown on corruption has spread, people are understandably hesitant to accept jewelry or statues made from poached giant clams,” Poling said.

Products made from giant clam shells are displayed inside a store in the seaside town of Tanmen in China's Hainan province May 10, 2016. Picture taken May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Farah Master - RTX2IKU7

Shiny wears: Products made from giant clam shells at Tanmen town in China’s Hainan province. Photo: Reuters/Farah Master

Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, says that it appears the crackdown on the giant clam trade has been “very decisive, at least as of now.”

The local government on Hainan Island, he says, also intends to promote “fishing tourism” as an alternative source of income for the local fishermen.

But Zhang says that he sees some evidence that the price for giant clams is rising, which could lead to an underground trade that spurs illegal harvesting.

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Coral rubble remains after Chinese “chopper” boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by  blast fishing.  John McManus/Rosenstiel School, University of Miami

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Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

The various nations involved in the South China Sea, including China, have laws aimed at preserving the marine environment. But the problem so far has been a lack of implementation.

Talks bring hope

China’s recent negotiations with Vietnam have offered another source of hope. During a recent visit to Beijing, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary, signed 15 agreements dealing, among other things, with economic cooperation, defense relations and tourism.

But another development points to potential conflict.

Satellite photos taken by the firm Planet Labs on March 6 show the clearing of land by China for possible new construction in the disputed Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam claim the Paracels as their territory.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo taken May 2016. U.S. Navy/Handout

Chinese dredging vessels in the South China Sea in 2016. Photo: US Navy/handout

Last month China’s agriculture ministry announced a fishing ban, including over a number of areas claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea, that would last from May 1 to August 16. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry strongly objected to the ban, which it described as “unilateral.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the same time, on the diplomatic front, China claims to be drafting a new code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although some experts doubt that diplomats can complete it as promised by the end of this year.

A non-binding code of conduct resolution signed by China and ASEAN in 2002 included brief mention of cooperative “marine environmental protection,” contingent on a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes.

South China Sea disputed islands

Marine biology expert McManus says that effectively managing the marine environment will require peaceful relations among the nations whose fishermen, and the Coast Guards backing them, have clashed frequently in recent years.

McManus proposes that a “marine peace park” be established in the Spratly Islands and that a freeze on territorial claims be imposed as part of an agreement. But satellite images showing the clearing of land on North Island in the Paracels group makes a freeze seem unlikely any time soon.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water. AFP/getty images

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describes the Paracels as “vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea.” But as long as the territorial disputes drag on, the maritime area’s environment will likely continue to pay a high cost.

Dan Southerland is the former executive editor of Radio Free Asia

 

Related:

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

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and water

The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

China to host Asean in meeting on South China Sea

March 25, 2017
MAR 24, 2017, 5:00 AM SGT

Aim is for preliminary accord on framework for code of conduct to ease tension over spats

China will host a meeting with Asean in May to come up with a “preliminary agreement” on a framework for a “code of conduct” (COC) meant to ease tensions over disputes in the South China Sea.

“Maybe by that time, we will have made significant progress on the framework,” said Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo at a news briefing on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Thailand on Wednesday.

Mr Manalo said earlier that a draft of the framework – first broached during a senior Asean officials’ meeting in the resort island of Boracay in the Philippines last month – is already being circulated to get Asean’s 10 member states to sign off.

“I’m not saying it will happen, but the hope of everyone is that by the time we get to the meeting in May, the senior officials… may be able to already have at least a preliminary agreement on the framework,” he said.

Mr Manalo declined to discuss specifics about the framework, except to say that it will incorporate elements already agreed upon under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

In that declaration, the two sides agreed to “exercise self-restraint” to prevent actions that could “complicate or escalate disputes”.

At the Boracay meeting, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean was looking at concluding the COC framework by June this year.

A COC has been in the making since 2002, but talks have been slow, as consensus within Asean has been elusive and China insists on conditions that have made it difficult to reach a compromise.

Last year, following a ruling from a tribunal striking down its claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, China sought to have a COC framework ready by the middle of this year.

A COC is expected to lay down legally binding rules and guidelines on avoiding conflicts arising from rival claims by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over all or parts of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) worth of trade passes through each year.

This comes as Mr Duterte reiterated that Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured him that China will not build structures on Scarborough Shoal as a “token of friendship”.

Beijing denied a news report that plans are afoot to erect an “environment monitoring station” on Scarborough Shoal, a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea.

“I was informed that they are not going to build anything on Scarborough,” said Mr Duterte at a news briefing shortly after he arrived in Manila from Bangkok just after midnight yesterday.

“Out of respect for our friendship, they will stop it. They won’t touch it. That’s what China said. Don’t worry. We are friends.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline ‘China to host Asean in meeting on South China Sea’.
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Philippines: “Stand Up To China,” Some Allies of President Duterte Urge Him To Change Course Before It Is Too Late

March 23, 2017
ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2017 03:25 AM

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President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA — A senator and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte is asking him to rethink his “hands-off” approach in dealing with the South China Sea.

Duterte has drawn criticism for his response to the alleged Chinese encroachment on Benham Rise and reports that Beijing is also planning to build a station in Scarborough Shoal.

Reacting to reports that China plans to build a monitoring station in Scarborough, Duterte recently said that the Philippines cannot do anything to stop China from altering the disputed shoal, located some 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

China has since denied the report.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Duterte’s approach on the issue is wrong and the president must stand up to China.

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, water, outdoor and nature

A Vietnamese Coast Guard captain speaks to other ships as a Chinese Coast Guard vessel cuts across its path to prevent access to an oil rig situated west of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. | BLOOMBERG

“It is incorrect to say that there is nothing we can do to stop China. We still have several legal and diplomatic options, all of which must be exhausted in defending Philippine territory from foreign aggression,” Gatchalian said.

“The Philippines should never allow itself to be bullied by anyone, no matter how big and powerful that bully might be.”

Gatchalian said Duterte must also invoke the Philippines’ legal victory against China should Beijing step up its aggression in the South China Sea.

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

A Filipino fishing vessel ventures into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. —REM ZAMORA

Last July, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s so-called nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea. It also said, Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the countries surrounding it and China may be violating the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking access to it.

“The favorable decision in the Philippines vs. China case is a potent tool we can use to enforce our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. It is our duty to invoke this ruling and take action before international legal institutions to contest any further acts of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian said.

South China Sea: China denies reports of building on disputed Scarborough Shoal

March 22, 2017

Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied reports that China will begin preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

China seized the shoal, which is northeast of the Spratly islands, in 2012 and denied access to Philippine fishermen. But after President Rodrigo Duterte visited China last year, it allowed them to return to the traditional fishing area.

Earlier this month, Xiao Jie, the mayor of what China calls Sansha City, said China planned to begin preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.

Sansha City is the name China has given to an administrative base for the South China Sea islands and reefs it controls.

“China places great importance on the preservation of the South China Sea’s ocean ecology, this is certain,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

 

“According to the relevant bodies in China, the reports you mention that touch upon building environmental monitoring stations on Scarborough Shoal are mistaken, these things are not true,” she added.

“With regards to Scarborough Shoal, China’s position is consistent and clear. We place great importance on China-Philippines relations.”

Xiao Jie’s comments about the plans as quoted by the state-backed Hainan Daily had been amended to remove mention of the shoal in the paper’s online version when checked by Reuters on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Philippines formally asked China’s embassy in Manila to explain news reports about building plans for Scarborough Shoal.

“We have sought clarification from China on reported plans on Scarborough Shoal,” Charles Jose, foreign ministry spokesman, said in a text message sent to news organizations.

In a radio interview later, Jose said it is important for the Philippines to strengthen its defense and maritime domain awareness capabilities.

He said the Philippines should also step up cooperation with its allies and regional partners who share the country’s position in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, resorting to peaceful settlement of disputes and adherence to rule of law.

“We should maintain the civilian nature so as not to escalate tensions,” he said, reacting to some suggestions the Philippines deploy warships to Scarborough Shoal to assert Manila’s claim on the rocky outcrop.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Related:

 (Contains links to several previous articles on the South China Sea)

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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.

South China Sea: Philippines closely monitoring Chinese activities in Scarborough Shoal — Who owns the sea?

March 22, 2017
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 01:31 PM March 22, 2017
Photo: An aircrewman monitors his sytems aboard a maritime patrol aircraft over the South China Sea
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PH closely monitoring Chinese activities in Scarborough Shoal
News

BANGKOK – The Philippines is closely watching activities in the South China Sea, particularly the Scarborough Shoal amid reports of China’s plan to build its first permanent structure in the disputed territory.

“The Philippine government is maintaining a regular close watch over Scarborough Shoal,” Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo told reporters here in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Concerns were raised after the reported plan of China to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal, off the coast of Zambales province.

Manalo said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already sought clarification from China regarding the building of an environmental station in Scarborough.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs already issued or requested China for clarification on this reported plan. As I said it is only a reported plan so we’re seeking clarification with China but let me also say that in the meantime, the Philippine government is maintaining a regular close watch over Scarborough Shoal,” he said.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said that the Philippine government should file a “strong Protest” against China’s building activity, which could lead to militarization in the disputed waters. Carpio urged Duterte to send the Philippine Navy to patrol in the Scarborough Shoal and invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacks the Philippines navy.

READ: Carpio tells Duterte: Defend PH shoal

Asked to comment on this, Manalo said the government has not filed any protest for now as it has to wait for China’s clarification.

“Ang masasabi ko lang ngayon (What I can say now) is that we have already approached China to seek clarification on this reported plan. And we have to wait for China’s reply,” he said.

Amid China’s intensified assertion of its maritime claims in the disputed waters, Manalo said Filipino fishermen were still free to go the area.

READ: China plan bad news for Filipino fishermen

“Well, there’s been no change. They can go there freely and that’s why we also have, as I said keeping it under close watch to see how things are going,” he said.

The foreign affairs official said his office has not received new reports of harassment on Filipino fishermen from Chinese vessels.

“We haven’t received any reports, I think. Kasi ang nagpupunta sa amin ‘yung reports ng mga (Because what we receive are reports from the) Coast Guard and security agencies. They have not given us any reports,” he said.

In a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon, President Rodrigo Duterte and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have agreed to push for the completion of the framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea this year as the Philippines hosts the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in November.  

“Both sides emphasized the need for the full and effective implementation of the declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea and expressed determination to complete the framework of the Code of Conduct in 2017,” Duterte said in a joint statement with Prayut after their bilateral meeting at the Government House here.

READ: Duterte, Thai PM push for sea code completion

The President said maintaining peace and stability in the region, including the addressing the dispute on the South China Sea was high on their agenda.

“We both also stressed the need to maintain peace and stability in the region, including the South China Sea,” he said. “We recognized both that respect for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea is in the interest of all countries within or outside the region.”

Thailand is not a claimant in any part of the South China Sea but Prayut, in his statement, said that international laws must be observed to resolve maritime issues in the disputed territories.

Besides China and the Philippines, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea.

In July 2016, the United Nations (UN) arbitral tribunal favored the Philippines’ diplomatic protest against China, saying there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its nine-dash line. China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper.”

Duterte, in his public speeches has repeatedly said he won’t insist the ruling now, saying he was still rebuilding the Philippines’ strained relationship with China. But the President promised to raise the issue within his term. IDL

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/153721/ph-closely-monitoring-chinese-activities-scarborough-shoal#ixzz4c2IaXyBA
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Related:

 (Contains links to several previous articles on the South China Sea)

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.