Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough’

South China Sea: Philippine President Discovers The Philippines No Longer Owns The Sea — Says He Will Ask China’s Xi Jinping For Clarification — Will China Change “The Entire Geography of the World?” — ASEAN is “Adrift” Former Philippine FM Says

November 8, 2017
Members of a Philippine survey team ride a motorized raft around Pag-asa island, with a sandbar seen in the background in this photo taken in April 2017. AFP

After Chinese protest, Rody stops Pag-asa construction

MANILA, Philippines — Ahead of possible talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Vietnam, President Duterte said yesterday he wants to know straight from Beijing if it intends to control the South China Sea.

“I do not take it against China. But what are the stakes? Do you want control of the passage?” Duterte said at his pre-departure briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) before leaving for Da Nang in Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

He is expected to meet Xi for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

On Tuesday, the President promised to be “frank” with China in discussing the dispute over the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion of world trade passes.

Duterte said China should be clear about its plans as these could have an impact on the Philippines and on the region in general.

“We are friends with China. May utang na loob tayo (We have a debt of gratitude). At one moment in our life or the lives of the Filipinos, they were there to give us the arms when we had none and we were fighting it out in Marawi,” the President told a press briefing at the NAIA Terminal 2.

“But let us be clear on what we intend to do here because eventually it will affect the entire Philippine archipelago,” he added.

Duterte stressed assistance or pledges of aid should not be used as “bargaining chips” on matters related to the greater interest of the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia.

“It’s about time that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, not really to confront, but to make clear to us what China really wants,” the President said.

Duterte said he wants those questions answered “for the sake of my country and the others who have overlapping claims.”

But the President made it clear it might not be wise to confront China over the maritime row.

“The truth is, if I could only confront China or if it is China alone – that’s the problem. But I said, there are contesting countries which have overlapping jurisdictions,” the President said.

“And if I engage China now, I will have to engage the five others. It would be something like a scramble there because if China concedes to one, Philippines, it has to concede to the others,” he pointed out.

“And what will now happen to our general claim of being the economic zone belonging to my country? That’s a problem,” he added.

Duterte, nevertheless, expressed belief the topic should be raised in bilateral meetings or at a regional forum.

“I should be bringing this important matter to the surface,” the President said.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

A misstep, he stressed, could be disastrous to the region. “I know where (it’s) going, the direction and it’s a game of geopolitics. I said, it would change the entire landscape of Southeast Asia if something goes wrong,” he said.

Duterte had said he would not declare war over the territorial issue as it would result in a “massacre” of Filipino troops.

He said he is counting on the promise of China that it would not build structures in the Philippine-occupied  Pag-asa Island and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“I just hope that he (Chinese President Xi) would honor it because it will change the entire geography of the world. And war starts. I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” the President said on Tuesday.

‘Don’t disturb equilibrium’

Duterte said Chinese officials can always visit Pag-asa island in Palawan as long as they do not “disturb the equilibrium” there.

“I said, ‘You can go there for a visit.’ As a matter of fact, you can shake hands with the commander there,” the Presi- dent said.

“I will tell my military men to treat you to a lunch .. But do not do anything that will disturb the equilibrium now present there,” he added.

China recently unveiled what it described as a “magic island-maker” vessel, triggering speculations that it would be used to reclaim Panatag Shoal.

A China Daily report said the 140-meter long vessel Taikun can dredge as much as 6,000 cubic meters of sand or clay per hour from 35 meters below the water’s surface.

Construction stopped

Apparently in keeping with his stand not to intimidate China, President Duterte had ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop its construction of a fishermen’s shelter on Sandy Cay near Pag-asa island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana bared yesterday.

The instruction was issued in August, he said.

Located just 2.5 nautical miles off Pag-asa, Sandy Cay is within the island’s maritime domain but is some 10 nautical miles from Beijing’s man-made island over Zamora (Subi) Reef.

“I agree with the decision because it’s a new feature,” Lorenzana said, adding the President’s instruction was based on explanations made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on the issue, following China’s filing of a diplomatic protest.

Lorenzana made the disclosure in an interview on the sidelines of a conference on security dubbed “Protecting the ASEAN community from Evolving Political-Security Challenges” at the Makati Shangri-La hotel.

The decision to stop construction of the fisherman’s shelter, the defense chief said, was in accordance with the agreement among all claimants that they maintain the status quo and refrain from occupying new features in the disputed waters.

Pag-asa residents and even troops usually visit Sandy Cay to have a picnic, do some fishing or adventure diving.

During his visit to the Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan in April, Duterte ordered the troops to occupy and even fortify uninhabited islets or islands in the West Philippine Sea.

“It looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we better live on those that are still vacant,” the President told the Wescom troops.

He was also quoted as telling the troops: “At least let us get what is ours and make a strong point there that is ours.”

“We brought people there to occupy, to put structure for our fishermen,” Lorenzana said.

Apparently after discovering the building activities, China lodged a diplomatic protest, citing the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) among the claimant states.

Cayetano, the defense chief said, saw the protest as valid.

“Wala na tayong tao doon (We don’t have people there),” Lorenzana said, referring to Sandy Cay, around which Chinese ships now regularly operate.

The Philippines has troops deployed in seven islets and two reefs in the disputed archipelago, while Vietnam has more than 23 outposts, and Beijing, seven. Malaysia has three and Taiwan has one. Only Brunei, another claimant, has no military presence in the area.

ASEAN ‘adrift’

Meanwhile, former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said ASEAN is “adrift” due to lack of unity and leadership and is at risk of becoming a bystander oblivious to developments in the region.

“The bright promise of Southeast Asia’s future contrasts against the fog of the present,” Del Rosario said at a forum in Makati City.

“In the midst of many changes in our environment, many of our states have found themselves being pulled in different directions. This has been worsened by a lack of leadership from among us. In broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift,” Del Rosario said.

He said the bloc’s “over-abundance of caution” might make it irrelevant. ASEAN, he said, is striving to be a rules-based community, to strengthen its centrality and to more actively contribute to the stability of the Asia-Pacific. “As an institution, it provides a platform for us to present and reconcile our interests and manage our differences.

“If ASEAN pursues an over-abundance of caution, it risks becoming only a bystander to the events within its own region,” he stressed.

He said recent developments are of grave concern and need a firm and principled response from ASEAN and the rest of the international community. He cited the Korean issue apart from South China Sea tensions.

“The resolution of these matters will require the full strength of our cooperative abilities, not our coercive ones,” he pointed out.

Del Rosario also said the US banner of promoting the rule of international law and the “Asia Pivot” was “unfortunately, not a focused one.” –  Jaime Laude, Pia Lee-Brago

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/09/1757074/rody-ask-china-do-you-want-control-scs

Related:

.

No automatic alt text available.

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

Advertisements

South China Sea: The Philippines Relies Upon China’s “Good Faith”

November 7, 2017

More Chinese island-building? Rody relies on ‘good faith’

The image shows the Chinese miltiary structures installed on Feiry Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef. AMTI, File

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is relying on China’s “good faith” that it would not embark on new reclamation activities in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea in the face of renewed concerns sparked by Beijing’s launching of a large dredging vessel.

In remarks before military officials and veterans of the Marawi battle, Duterte said he hoped China could be trusted to keep its word that it would not build new islands in disputed waters or in areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China recently launched what it described as a “magic island-maker” vessel, triggering speculations that it would be used to reclaim Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ, but was declared a “common fishing ground” by an arbitral court based in The Hague. It is only 124 nautical miles off Zambales.

Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping himself had promised not to reclaim Pagasa “and the nearby islands that we have occupied already.”

The same assurance, Duterte said, was given to Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

“He will not build something on the Scarborough Shoal,” the President said, referring to Xi.

“I just hope that he would honor it because it will change the entire geography of the world. And war starts. I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” he added.

While vowing to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea, Duterte stressed it is not yet the time to do it.

The Chief Executive reiterated he would not go to war over the West Philippine Sea as it would result in a “massacre” of Filipino troops.

“If I were to insist on our arbitral claim as demanded by some of the justices, I would run afoul with everything else because China is not the only power that is claiming a part of the (South) China Sea. Taiwan has a claim and it overlaps the northern part of the country, our economic zones. And Vietnam has another idea of what this is. And Malaysia. And they were starting really to pile up,” the President said.

“Instead of just facing one, I’d be facing many. If there are concessions given or conceded, the other countries who are also claimants on the same area will start to assert. That’s my problem. It’s really the changing geopolitics,” he pointed out.

He also vowed to be “frank” in discussing the maritime row with China on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meet in Vietnam.

Duterte will leave for Da Nang today for the summit, where he is expected to interact with fellow leaders including Xi.

There was no official announcement if Duterte and Xi would have a meeting in Vietnam but the Philippine leader hinted that he might have a word with Chinese officials.

China Daily report said dredging ship Tiankun is 140 meters long and can dredge as much as 6,000 cubic meters of sand or clay per hour from 35 meters below the water’s surface.  Similar ships were said to have been used to build artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Earlier yesterday at Malacañang, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte “recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations”  when asked to comment on the launching of the dredging ship.

“China has told the President, they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that. We need to rely on good faith because otherwise there would be no predictability in international relations,” Roque told a press briefing.

China occupied Panatag Shoal in 2012 after a standoff with Philippine Navy vessels, which had tried to arrest Chinese poachers. Chinese maritime surveillance ships harassed Philippine Navy vessels, enabling the poachers to escape with their illegal harvest of giant clams, endangered corals and baby sharks.

The Panatag standoff prompted the Aquino administration to contest China’s massive claim in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which eventually validated Manila’s position. Beijing had vowed not to comply with the ruling.

Asked whether the President would question the launching of the vessel, Roque replied: “As I said, he has relied completely on the principle of good faith. Which is, in fact, a fundamental and cardinal principle of international law.”

Roque noted that Duterte has opted to maintain very close and cordial relationship with China despite the dispute over some areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“I think we are seeing new heights in terms of Philippine-Chinese relations and it has resulted in very tangible results, particularly economic investments,” he said.

China has undertaken massive reclamation activities in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, areas located off the western province of Palawan.

Airstrips, radar systems and barracks were also seen on the reefs, reinforcing theories that China is shoring up its military might in the region.

China has denied militarizing the South China Sea and maintained that it is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Meanwhile, construction of a beaching ramp in Pag-asa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group has started in preparation for more improvements of military and civilian structures in the island town, the Department of National Defense said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, through spokesman Arsenio Andolong, said the construction ramp is expected to be completed early next year, depending of weather conditions.

The defense official said a beaching ramp would allow large ships to dock and unload construction materials.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/08/1756771/more-chinese-island-building-rody-relies-good-faith

Related:

.
.
.

.

China exploits the Philippines’ soft-pedalling in South China Sea

August 30, 2017

By Richard Heydarian

Duterte’s conciliatory stance on Beijing’s territorial claims is backfiring

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea. © Reuters

Just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ended a series of ministerial meetings in Manila in early August the Philippines faced a fresh and daunting challenge in the South China Sea.

In what one prominent Filipino official described as an “invasion,” a flotilla of Chinese civilian and military vessels gathered within a few nautical miles of the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, a prized land feature in the area. There are growing concerns that China will gobble up other contested land features in the Spratly chain of islands and tighten the noose around other claimant states as a prelude to full domination of the South China Sea.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water and outdoor

The “invasion” was a shocking development for Manila, which has used its one-year term as the rotating chair of ASEAN to shield Beijing against criticism of its maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea. The Philippines has also recently proposed resource-sharing agreements in contested areas to break the impasse among claimant states.

In exchange, Manila was hoping to reach a mutually acceptable modus vivendi with Beijing, leading to expanded trade and investment ties. China’s latest action, however, has exposed Beijing’s naked opportunism as it exploits the strategic acquiescence of some other ASEAN countries and waning U.S. influence in the region.

Image result for Nikkei asian review, logo

Beijing’s assertiveness also casts doubt on the conciliatory policy pursued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte toward China, and boosts hawks who are urging a tougher stance. Duterte and his Foreign Secretary (and former vice-presidential running mate) Alan Cayetano have sought to play down the issue, but the Philippine defense establishment and media are outraged.

At the recent ASEAN meetings, Philippine officials exercised the country’s prerogative as the group’s chair to tone down any criticism of China’s massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano claimed that Beijing had not engaged in any reclamation activities in recent months, while indirectly criticizing other claimant states such as Vietnam for engaging in similar activities. But satellite imagery released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a monitoring program set up by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, has revealed China’s relentless expansion and upgrading of disputed land features such as the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea.

The Philippine foreign secretary admitted that he wanted to avoid issues that China consider sensitive in ASEAN’s post-summit joint statement, so as to facilitate dialogue. He also expressed skepticism over the wisdom of pursuing a “legally-binding” Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a key demand of rival ASEAN claimant states such as Vietnam, suggesting that a more symbolic document would be sufficient.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department is grappling with policy paralysis under President Donald Trump and a series of naval collisions that have diminished the aura of U.S. invincibility and forced the resignation of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, head of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the U.S. Navy’s largest overseas force.

To China’s delight, the Duterte administration has also dangled the option of resource-sharing with China in contested waters, particularly the energy-rich Reed Bank. This way, Manila hopes to avoid conflict and develop new energy resources to feed its booming economy. In effect, the Philippines is legitimizing China’s excessive claims, which extend well into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

But Beijing’s blatant display of force risks undermining its newfound rapprochement with the Philippines, where the defense establishment and public are already highly critical of China.

Image may contain: sky

China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines. File photo from Xinhua

Suspicious movements

Intelligence reports on suspicious movements of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island were leaked by Philippine defense officials to Gary Alejano, a prominent opposition lawmaker. The information was corroborated by satellite imagery released by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Alejano, a decorated former soldier with strong ties to the military, reported that Chinese frigates and coast guard vessels sailed close to Thitu Island from Aug. 11 to 15. He also suggested that China is intent on occupying Sandy Cay, a low-tide elevation within Thitu’s territorial waters.

Rocky Thitu Island, which is the second largest naturally-formed feature in the area, has been under effective Philippine occupation for more than 40 years. It has a mayor, a civilian community, an airstrip that dates to the 1970s and a regular contingent of Philippine marines and other military personnel.

In April, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief of staff Eduardo Ano made a high-profile visit to Thitu to demonstrate Manila’s resolve to protect its territory. They promised to upgrade local facilities, including the airstrip, and improve basic services and accommodation for civilians living on the island. These plans are now in jeopardy due to the growing presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

There are also growing fears of encirclement and additional reclamation activities by China in the Spratly Islands, which are contested by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing already occupies nearby Subi Reef, which it has transformed it into a fully-fledged island with a large airstrip and advanced military facilities. A Chinese flag was reportedly planted on a sandbar next to the Philippine-controlled Kota Island. Such actions suggest that Beijing is intent on encircling and squeezing out other claimant states from the area.

Alejano has cautioned the Duterte administration against “denial or silence and inaction” in response to Chinese actions. Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a prominent hawk on the South China Sea issue, described the episode as an “invasion of Philippine territory,” and has urged Duterte and Cayetano to stand up to China. He suggested invoking a mutual defense treaty with the U.S. in the event of clashes with Chinese vessels.

Both Duterte and his foreign secretary have sought to play down the Thitu issue by claiming that China was engaged in routine maritime activities in the area. In a dramatic break with protocol, however, the Philippine military has openly encouraged the government to take a tougher stance. the foreign ministry to raise the issue in the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, a negotiating forum established by the two countries, which met for the first time in May. It serves as the primary platform for dialogue on sensitive bilateral issues.

However, unless China significantly eases its assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Duterte administration is expected to come under growing domestic pressure to revise its policy toward Beijing. While Duterte is still popular, he cannot afford to continue to ignore public sentiment as well as the concerns of top military officers.

China’s aggressive actions underline the perils of Manila’s overly conciliatory policy, which is based on the naive notion that acquiescence will tame Beijing’s territorial appetite. The latest episode in the South China Sea highlights the necessity for ASEAN countries and the U.S. to actively resist Chinese maritime ambitions. Otherwise, Beijing will continue to push its luck at the expense of regional security and the interests of smaller claimant states.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic and columnist. He is the author of “Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for the Western Pacific,” and of the forthcoming” Rise of Duterte.”

https://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Richard-Heydarian/China-exploits-the-Philippines-soft-pedalling-in-South-China-Sea

Related:

Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

No automatic alt text available.

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

Asean goes soft on China

August 2, 2017
In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible. File

MANILA, Philippines –  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is seen to take a softer stand on China’s aggressive moves in disputed waters and to highlight instead the conclusion of negotiations on a framework of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

The latest talks on the COC were held on May 18 in Guiyang, China.

In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible.

ASEAN and China are set to endorse a framework for a COC that will regulate the future behavior of the parties concerned during the meeting in Manila this week. The framework will be endorsed for eventual crafting of a COC.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the framework, completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the leaders of ASEAN and China, contains elements which the parties have agreed to.

But the draft does not call for a legally binding COC, as some ASEAN countries had wanted.

Pending conclusion of a substantive COC, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) in its entirety,” the draft communiqué said.

“Taking note of concerns expressed by some ministers over recent developments in the area, we reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, pursuing mutually agreed practical maritime areas of cooperation, and avoiding unilateral actions in disputed features that may further complicate the situation in keeping with the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the draft statement said.

The draft communiqué did not mention the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines.

‘Philippines should seek enforcement of arbitral award’

But Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines should seek enforcement of the arbitration ruling against China on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio said this after warning that a joint venture with China on the disputed islands would violate the Constitution.

Carpio said the Duterte administration should instead push for its territorial rights stemming from the government’s victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

He raised suggestions as the country is set to host next week the ASEAN foreign ministers for the framework of the COC for claimants in the maritime row.

Among the options for the government, according to Carpio, is to initiate an agreement among all ASEAN members with territorial claims in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that could overlap among countries as ruled by the PCA.

He also suggested that the Philippines enter into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia on overlapping EEZ on the extended continental shelf claim in the Spratlys.

Carpio explained such agreements would implement part of the arbitral ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ.

“Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them leaving, only the territorial disputes,” the magistrate said in an interview.

He explained that such declarations would also isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratly islands.

The SC justice said another option would be to file before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf an extended continental shelf (ECS) claim beyond the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon.

Carpio believes that the UN body would likely award the ECS claim to the Philippines since China would not participate in the process and oppose it. This would be similar to the Philippines’ ECS claim in Benham Rise, which was unopposed.

“If China opposes our ECS claim, China would have a dilemma on what ground to invoke,” he stressed, adding that China cannot invoke its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea as the CLCS is bound by the PCA ruling under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Carpio reiterated that the Philippines can file a new case before the UNCLOS tribunal if China starts reclamation activities in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as this would destroy the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

Carpio earlier criticized the policy of the Duterte administration on the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea for “setting aside” the PCA award won by the legal team, of which he was part.

He said the policy is “without discernible direction coherence of vision” and “relies more on improvisation than on long-term strategy.”

But the SC justice clarified the blame does not fall on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), because it is Duterte who is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.

DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar earlier said the PCA ruling might not be mentioned in the framework to be approved by the ASEAN foreign ministers.

The official said the framework would be “generic” and would only outline the nature of the code of conduct for parties in the dispute.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/03/1724206/asean-goes-soft-china

Related:

Doklam deadlock: India and China will constantly challenge each other, get used to it

 (July 8, 2017)

No automatic alt text available.

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

 

China’s Threat Of War Against Philippines Is Baseless Scare Tactic — Deception, coercion, intimidation, lies and threats are to be expected. As they say in Vietnam, “This is just China.”

May 22, 2017

I cover international politics, security and political risk.

On Friday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said President Xi Jinping threatened war if Duterte started developing Philippine oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. The Philippines has every right to do so, per the award of an international arbitral tribunal in the Hague last year. After describing Xi’s threat, Duterte told his Philippine military audience, “What more could I say?” I sympathize. The Philippines is a much smaller country militarily, economically, and in diplomatic power, than is China. As Duterte points out, war with China would be a “massacre and it will destroy everything,” starting in Palawan, a long Philippine island bordering the South China Sea.

But let’s consider a few options that show this threat of war for what it is: a baseless scare tactic. First, Duterte could hang tough and seek a stronger stance on the issue by the U.S., which is a Philippine ally per the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. In his defense, Duterte and his predecessor Benigno Aquino may already have sought such help from the U.S. and gotten turned down or dissuaded. That would be a stain on U.S. honor. But redoubling his efforts, for example reaching out to Trump and bringing the threat before the United Nations General Assembly, is constitutionally required according to Philippine Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

To whomever one ascribes blame, the U.S.-Philippine alliance failed to defend the Philippine EEZ when China occupied Mischief Reef in 1995, and Scarborough Shoal in 2012. That is a fact. Every day that China continues its occupation, the alliance fails anew.

The U.S. and Philippines together, could easily have defended these locations. The Philippines tried briefly at the Scarborough standoff of 2012, but U.S. ships did not join, and then the U.S. and China brokered a deal in which the Philippines backed off, and China stayed. Why didn’t the U.S. and Philippines return in force when they realized they had been tricked? Given that we all stayed home, we cannot say that China’s willingness to fight has been tested at Scarborough.

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

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 to deliver food and supplies to Philippine Marines in Philippine waters, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo ) Intimidation?

When I spoke to several Chinese foreign ministry officials a couple years ago, they said they would not fight back if the U.S. and Philippines removed them from Scarborough by force. It was a startling admission, one gotten when I surprised them with the question. But I bet it is true, even today. If China attacked Philippine military forces, or the island of Palawan, the U.S. would come to the aid of the Philippines militarily, and China knows this. That would be militarily and economically damaging, if not catastrophic, to both countries. Therefore a Chinese war against the Philippines is unlikely to happen as long as the alliance with the U.S. is healthy. President Duterte could make this clear to the public in both nations by visiting the White House, and inviting Trump to Malacañang Palace, rather than amplify China’s scare tactics.

More likely than war would be Chinese attempts to interdict Philippine commercial vessels trying to drill for oil, and offering to sell Philippine oil rights. China did this to Vietnam in 2012. When Vietnam tried to tow sonar in its EEZ, looking for oil and gas, a Chinese boat ran over the cables and cut them. Also in 2012, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) tried to auction blocks for oil exploration that were within Vietnam’s EEZ. The Philippines could protect its oil exploration and drilling with its own Coast Guard, perhaps accompanied by U.S., European and Japanese Coast Guard.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/anderscorr/2017/05/20/chinas-threat-of-war-against-philippines-is-baseless-scare-tactic/#3f5a045539f9

Peace and Freedom comment: For China, the effort continues to be a success as long as no shots are fired. Deception, coercion, lies and threats are to be expected. As they say in Vietnam, “This is just China.” The Philippines better wise up. 

Image may contain: 1 person

Related:

 (From 2014)

A Filipino protester holds placards with slogans during a rally outside the Chinese consulate at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The group is demanding an end to China’s alleged incursions in the South China Sea and to press the Chinese government to respect the arbitral process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

 (China says you can trust us…)

Trust (xìn)

No automatic alt text available.

China is preparing for the reclamation and construction on Scarborough Shoal

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

No automatic alt text available.

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

 

South China Sea: ASEAN Urged To Insist Upon International Law in Code of Conduct With China — Be careful of the Goldilocks approach in the South China Sea

April 26, 2017
The Vietnamese-claimed Southwest Cay island in the Spratly island group is seen from a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials in disputed South China Sea, western Philippines, Friday, April 21, 2017. The South China Sea issue is expected to be discussed in the 20th ASEAN Summit of Leaders next week. Francis Malasig, Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, along with other claimant countries of the South China Sea, should sign the Code of Conduct framework first and pressure China later on, a foreign policy analyst said.

De La Salle University professor Richard Heydarian said that Association of Southeast Nation (ASEAN) countries need a constrainment strategy in resolving the maritime dispute.

“We cannot contain China, they are too powerful… At least what we can do is like-minded countries in the ASEAN can coordinate approach,” Heydarian said in a South China Sea forum hosted by Stratbase ADR Institute on Tuesday.

The analyst added that Brunei is interested in joining discussions with Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam regarding the contested waters.

The way forward is for the ASEAN to implement institutional changes such as adopting a qualified majority or an “ASEAN minus X” formula in sensitive issues where it is impossible to get unanimity on decisions, he said.

Heydarian said it would be in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte what kind of approach he is going to adopt as chairman of the 10-member regional bloc.

“The reality is that as the chairman of the ASEAN we have two major privileges. One major privilege is the second phase of power which is to set the agenda… The second thing is that during President Duterte’s chairman statement, especially later in November, he can say whatever he wants,” he said.

The Philippines as ASEAN chair might not exactly dictate the outcome of the final statement but the country can decide on issues that will be discussed on the agenda.

It would be beneficial for the country if Duterte uses this opportunity in the right way, the foreign policy analyst said.

“The reality is that as far as the Duterte administration is concerned there is this very robust debate. One school of thought is that the president is an unhinged demagogue who is a mayor who has no idea about how to deal about foreign policy. There is the other school of thought that portrays him as a strategic genius whose understanding in the South China Sea is so sophisticated that even us experts will never understand,” Heydarian said.

 Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo

Heydarian said that Duterte is somewhere in the middle based on the events in the past few months within the administration.

“There’s a very robust debate on how to come up with what I call Goldilocks approach in the South China Sea – how to combine the right amount of engagement with China with the right amount of deterrence,” Heydarian said.

While Duterte is seeking to improve economic and investment relations with China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is leading efforts to fortify the country’s position on the ground.

Last week, Lorenzana visited Pag-asa Island, the largest feature in the Spratly Group, to assert the country’s claim to the disputed area. The Duterte administration has allotted P1.6 billion to develop facilities on Pag-asa Island.

“You have this burgeoning strategy but I think it’s very important that the Philippines uses this chairmanship of ASEAN this year to make sure that you have a more sophisticated and robust regional approach to measure that China will know that they will be cause to its increasing strategic footprint on the ground,” the analyst said.

RELATED: Del Rosario urges gov’t: Don’t wait for ‘better time’ to assert arbitral award

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/26/1694107/asean-countries-urged-draft-sea-code-pressure-china

Related:

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

.

 (Philippine Star)

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

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

l

No automatic alt text available.

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

Despite all this:

 

South China Sea: Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Suggests ASEAN Member States Make Hague International Court Ruling Part of Code of Conduct

April 25, 2017
The Philippines’ former top diplomat said the position that China’s SCS build-up is a fait accompli should be rejected. File

MANILA, Philippines –  Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario yesterday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to make the South China Sea (SCS) ruling an “integral” part of the Code of Conduct framework and the eventual finished document.

The Philippines’ former top diplomat said the position that China’s SCS build-up is a fait accompli should be rejected.

While most states strive for a peaceful, rules-based regional order in Southeast Asia, Del Rosario said China’s unilateralism has put this common vision at grave risk.

He urged ASEAN to be united in countering this challenge to its regional centrality and solidarity, noting that promoting the rule of law and strengthening multilateralism in support of the law must be key parts of ASEAN’s response.

“ASEAN and the international community as a whole should utilize the principles in the arbitral ruling to move diplomatic engagement forward,” Del Rosario said during the forum titled “The South China Sea: The Philippines, ASEAN, and their International Partners.”

The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, has decided to set aside the ruling in settling the maritime dispute with China.

“On shelving the ruling, what would happen if we should pass the point of no return?” Del Rosario asked.

The Philippines took a risk when the Philippine government went to arbitration at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 with Del Rosario as foreign affairs secretary.

The ruling of the international arbitral tribunal not only vindicated the Philippines, but also upheld the rule of law over the waters and global commons of the SCS, making the ruling an integral part of the universal body of international law.

Manila made a strong contribution to the region, as the ruling benefited not only the claimants but also the whole world.

“My hope is that our ASEAN neighbors share the pride of what a member state like ours can accomplish, and see in the ruling an opportunity for all of the Southeast Asian region. Ultimately, advocating a rules-based regime is deeply embedded in who we are and what we must do,” Del Rosario said.

As this year’s chair of the ASEAN, the Philippines, he emphasized, has a unique and important opportunity to dwell on how it can work with its neighbors to ensure that a rules-based order succeeds.

Del Rosario also pointed out that the purpose of the cooperation should go beyond maintaining friendly ties, as the Philippines must also cooperate to ensure a neighborhood where countries follow the rules and uphold their commitments.

In 2002, ASEAN and China committed to a non-binding agreement over how claimants should all behave in the SCS. In the spirit of preventing and reducing tensions, the countries committed to self-restraint from activities that would complicate or escalate disputes.

“I am sorry to say that in the years that followed, one country did not exercise the necessary restraint expected of it,” Del Rosario said.

In 2017, as in 2012, he said that the greatest immediate source of regional uncertainty has been China’s unlawful efforts to expand its footprint throughout the SCS.

“Our region cannot promote the rule of law while ignoring the law as it stands,” Del Rosario said. “Moreover, we must not accept the position that China’s South China Sea build-up is a fait accompli that renders us helpless.”

It should be unthinkable for any diplomatic mechanism – whether bilateral or multilateral – to be used as a channel to reward unilateral activity or preserve unlawful gains, according to Del Rosario.

He urged the Philippines to speak out and work with its neighbors and friends to stand united in protest of island-building and militarization, Filipino fishermen being barred from entering Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, irreparable destruction of marine commons and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s challenged flyover in the SCS.

“We cannot wait for a ‘better time’ to come – we must create that time ourselves, lest that opportunity be lost forever,” Del Rosario said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/26/1694039/asean-urged-make-scs-ruling-part-sea-code

Related:

.

 (Philippine Star)

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

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

l

No automatic alt text available.

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

Despite all this:

China alarmed, angered by Philippine government, military visit to Pag-asa Island — “We are gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this.” — South China Sea Being Run By China Upon Oral Agreement With Philippine President Duterte

April 22, 2017
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (3L) gestures as he and military chief Eduardo Ano (R) inspect the runway of the airport during a visit to Thitu island in The Spratlys on April 21, 2017. Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana flew to a disputed South China Sea island on April 21, brushing off a challenge by the Chinese military while asserting Manila’s territorial claim to the strategic region. AFP/Ted Aljibe

BEIJING (Philippines News Agency) – China has lodged representations with the Philippine side following a visit by the Filipino defense and military officials in Pag-asa Island, according to the spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry.

”Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side,” Lu Kang said in a press statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry Affairs website.

Image may contain: 1 person

 Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. File photo. Peace and Freedom screengrab

Last Friday, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año, along with other military officials, visited Pag-asa Island, a Philippine-occupied territory that is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

Lu said the move of the Philippines defense and military officials has negated the important consensus reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

”This move runs counter to the important consensus reached between the two leadership, which is to properly deal with the South China Sea issue,” Lu said.

Lu said China is hoping that the Philippine government would continue to cherish a five-decade China-Philippines bilateral relations which rejuvenated under the leadership of Duterte.

FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. The Chinese say they are enforcing fishing rules in the South China Sea now. Renato Etac

”We hope that the Philippine side could faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leadership, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations,” he said.

Since Duterte’s visit in China last year, Lu said China and the Philippines have been keeping good communication to properly manage and resolve the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

”We hope that this momentum can continue,” the Chinese foreign ministry official said.

In media reports, Lorenza described the trip to Pag-asa Island as a “normal visit within our territory”.

”We believe and we know that this is our territory and I am just visiting to look at the conditions of our people here,” the top Filipino defense official said.

Image result for chinese coast guard ships, photos

Above: While Lorenzana visited Pag-asa Island he personally witnessed the presence from a distance of four to five Chinese Coast Guard ships

Pag-asa Island was occupied by the Philippines in the late 1960s and is categorized as a fifth-class municipality of Palawan province.

Lorenza has revealed a plan to set aside at least P1.6 billion to develop Pag-asa Island and a proposal by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to build a fish port in the area.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/22/1692807/china-alarmed-philippine-military-execs-visit-pag-asa-island

Related:

 (The problem of Islamic rebels in the Philippines — Real or Not?)
.
.

No automatic alt text available.

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

Despite all this:

In this July 14, 2016, file photo, Marcopolo Tam, a member of a pro-China business group in Hong Kong, points to what is now known as the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on a Japanese World War II-era map purporting to support China’s claims to vast parts of the South China Sea, in Hong Kong. AP/Kin Cheung, File

Philippines: Chinese Coast Guard stationed in Scarborough to administer fishing activities (Chinese strategy is “Talk and Take”)

April 11, 2017

 0

FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Renato Etac

via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that the country’s Coast Guard vessels are stationed in waters near Scarborough Shoal to administer fishing activities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the Philippines and China made arrangements for fishing activities in the area.

Image may contain: 1 person

 Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry — more reliable than Malacañang

“Last year, based on the friendliness between China and the Philippines, China made proper arrangement for fishing activities by Philippine fishermen in the relevant part of waters near Huangyan Dao,” Hua said in a press briefing Monday.

Reuters earlier reported that a small Philippine fishing crew is being allowed to fish in the area by the Chinese Coast Guard.

Chinese Coast Guard vessels are also present in the area to preserve peace, tranquility and order, the spokesperson said.

Asked about the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he would not place weapons on Philippines-controlled islets in the South China Sea, Hua stressed that China’s position on the issue has been clear and consistent.

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing

President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua. Photo by EPA

“We are firm in upholding our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea,” Hua said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated that Beijing is committed to settling disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultations with countries directly involved, including the Philippines.

China is also committed to working with ASEAN countries to preserve peace and stability in the region, Hua said.

“China has maintained close and effective communication with the Philippines on relevant issues. We hope that the Philippines can work with us to continue to properly handle differences and create favorable atmosphere for the sound and steady growth of bilateral relations,” the spokesperson said.

Duterte earlier ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy the country’s controlled islets and land features in the South China Sea.

The president, however, clarified that there are no new weapons being eyed for the islets as the Philippine military seeks to exercise greater control.

“We are just there to claim the island for us because that is really ours and I have ordered the AFP to build structures there to signify, atin ito,” Duterte said before departing for Saudi Arabia.

RELATED: AFP: Philippines to upgrade island facilities, not launch land grab

The president made the order for the military to occupy South China Sea following reports that China is nearly finished with its construction of military facilities on three islands in the Spratly Group.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170411-lebanon-army-order-evicts-3000-syria-refugees-camps

Related:

Image may contain: 3 people, outdoor

A Vietnamese fishing boat was reportedly ambushed and looted by a China Coast Guard vessel off Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago. Here the fisher make a reort to Vietnamese police, March 2016.

See article:

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

  (November 24, 2015)

 (December 28, 2015)

 (Also called “Talk and Take”)

Chinese J-11 Fighters Deployed To Woody Island In South China Sea

China posted pictures of an armed J-11 Flanker fighter

.

 (Philippine Star)

Image may contain: ocean, outdoor, water and nature

 

Related:

.
.

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

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.

FILE – In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The Philippines’ top diplomat says China remains opposed to a legally-binding code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea even as negotiations have progressed on other elements of such a code. Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said Tuesday, April 4, 2017, talks between China and Southeast Asian countries on the code’s framework have made headway but have not yet touched on whether the code will be legally-binding – as the Philippines and its neighbors want. Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

South China Sea: Philippines has lost traditional fishing ground as Vietnamese move in with Chinese, Philippines envoy to China says — Everyone shares the common fishing ground — But fewer fish each year

April 4, 2017
South China Sea: Philippines has lost traditional fishing ground as Vietnamese move in with Chinese, Philippines envoy to China says — Everyone shares the common fishing ground — But fewer fish each year

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

MANILA, Philippines — The reported presence of Vietnamese fishing vessels at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is actually good news, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said Tuesday.

The United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague had ruled that the shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

RELATED: How the Hague court ruled on the Philippines’s 15 arguments

In an interview with ANC’s Hot Copy on Headstart, Sta. Romana said that Vietnamese presence in the region brings back the essence of Panatag Shoal as a common fishing ground.

“Had we known this verdict back it 2012 that it’s a historical common fishing ground perhaps we should not have arrested the Chinese fishermen. It should have been a common fishing ground,” Sta. Romana said.

READ: Seen fishing on Panatag, Vietnam gains from Philippines’ arbitral win

In 2012, the Philippines was involved in a tense standoff with China over the shoal located 120 nautical miles from Zambales.

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

The standoff began when a Philippine Navy surveillance plane sighted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Panatag.

The Philippine Navy then deployed warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar to inspect the Chinese vessels, wherein they discovered large amounts of illegally collected coral, giant clams and live sharks.

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

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 )

Sta. Romana, however, said that the 2012 Panatag Shoal standoff led to the country’s loss of the traditional fishing ground.

“That is what led to our loss. We tried to enforce and say that it is ours… It is true that what is ours is ours if it’s accepted by the world but in that case, the Chinese also say the same thing,” the diplomat said.

There have been reports that China is building an environmental monitoring station on Panatag Shoal.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied the report, saying that such facility on Panatag Shoal had been checked and was found to be false.

“That does not exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “South China Sea is indisputable Chinese territory.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/04/1687605/vietnamese-presence-panatag-good-news-says-philippines-envoy-china

Related:

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

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

l

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

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