Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough’

South China Sea: USS Theodore Roosevelt causing a stir in what many consider “China’s Lake”

April 11, 2018

Crewmen of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt prepare their aircraft Tuesday, April 10,2018, in international waters off South China Sea. The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is sailing through the disputed South China Sea in the latest display of America’s military might after China built a string of islands with military facilities in the strategic sea it claims almost in its entirety. (Jim Gomez/AP)

By Jim Gomez

The Associated Press

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, South China Sea — As fighter jets streaked overhead, a U.S. aircraft carrier sailed through the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday in the latest display of America’s military might after China built a string of islands with military facilities to assert its claims in the strategic waters, sparking regional alarm.

The U.S. Navy flew a small group of Philippine generals, officials and journalists to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, where fighter jets landed and took off by catapult with thunderous blasts. Carrying 65 supersonic F-18 jets, spy planes and helicopters, the nuclear-powered carrier was en route to Manila.

Recent U.S. deployments of aircraft carriers, backed by destroyers, to the disputed waters for freedom of navigation challenges to Beijing’s territorial claims are reassuring allies but also prompting concerns with China’s own show of force in the busy waterway.

“It’s a showcase of the capability of the U.S. armed forces not only by sea but also by air,” Philippine army Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista said after joining a tour of the 97,000-ton carrier.

“The Americans are our friends. In one way or another, they can help us to deter any threat,” Bautista said, adding that the American military presence helps secure vulnerable Philippine waters.

Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, left, commander CSG-9 of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, briefs top Philippine generals led by Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, foreground right, Tuesday, April 10,2018, in international waters off South China Sea. The aircraft carrier CVN-71 is sailing through the disputed South China Sea in the latest display of America's military might after China built a string of islands with military facilities in the strategic sea it claims almost in its entirety. (Jim Gomez/AP)
Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, left, commander CSG-9 of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, briefs top Philippine generals led by Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, foreground right, Tuesday, April 10,2018, in international waters off South China Sea. The aircraft carrier CVN-71 is sailing through the disputed South China Sea in the latest display of America’s military might after China built a string of islands with military facilities in the strategic sea it claims almost in its entirety. (Jim Gomez/AP)

At least twice this year, the U.S. Navy has deployed destroyers in freedom of navigation sail-bys near Chinese-occupied Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing wrestled from the Philippines in 2012, and Manila-claimed Mischief Reef, which Chinese forces occupied in 1995.

Another U.S. carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, patrolled the contested waters last month, taking part in anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea with Japanese forces and visiting Vietnam with its 5,000-strong crew, the largest such U.S. military presence there since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

China has protested those moves, calling it U.S. meddling in an Asian conflict, and renewed warnings to Washington to stay away. Beijing has also reportedly been holding large-scale naval exercises in the area featuring its only operating aircraft carrier, while its air force says it recently sent some of its most advanced fighters and bombers for “joint combat patrols” over the sea.

Those included H-6K long-range strategic bombers that carry DH-20 long-range land-attack cruise missiles, giving them the ability to hit targets as far away as Australia, along with Russian-made Su-35 fighters.

“What we see now is a show of force and a counter show of force in the South China Sea,” said Roilo Golez, a former Philippine national security adviser and congressman.

While the moves could increase the risks of miscalculation and accidental clashes, Washington’s superior naval power could serve as deterrence to Chinese aggression, Golez said.

The Philippine ambassador to Beijing, Chito Sta. Romana, recently warned that the risks of a miscalculation and armed conflict have risen in the disputed region with a militarily stronger China now able to challenge the U.S.

Sta. Romana compared the two powers to elephants fighting and trampling on the grass and said, “What we don’t want is for us to be the grass.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of befriending China has worked, Sta. Romana said, citing Beijing’s decision to lift its blockade around Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal. China also allowed Filipino fishermen back into disputed Scarborough Shoal after Duterte visited Beijing and raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016.

Despite such fears and occasional exchanges of rhetoric, U.S. Rear Adm. Steve Koehler told reporters on board the Roosevelt that it has been smooth sailing so far, with U.S., Chinese and other forces engaging each other professionally.

“I haven’t seen any dangerous interaction,” Koehler said, adding that problems could be avoided “if all the navies are operating in accordance with the international norm and law.”

Washington stakes no claims in the territorial disputes but has declared that their peaceful resolution and the maintenance of freedom of navigation are in its national interest.

American officials have said U.S. Navy ships will continue sailing close to Chinese-occupied areas without prior notice, placing Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests.

Associated Press writer Chris Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

See also:

After China’s massive drill, U.S. patrols disputed South China Sea


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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

South China Sea turning into signals hub for Chinese military

February 21, 2018

Throughout the ages, wars have been waged over territory. From nation states and warring factions, to gangs and real estate developers everyone knows location is key.  The more land you control, the more territory you lord over – the more power you wield.

Generally the acreage and borders  in question are based on the land as nature intended it to be. But what if your strategic interests required creating land out of thin air, or in this case, deep blue ocean?  Enter the People’s Republic of China and their man-made islands in the Spratly island chain, in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The United States and its allies have been watching the construction of these man made islands for some time. China began the projects under the auspices of navigational necessity but analysis of their chosen locations quickly revealed there was another strategic motivation at work. In fact, they were building new military bases.

In early 2017 the DC based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)released a report– having analyzed recent satellite photos –and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters had either been finished or were nearing completion.

The report also stated that the satellite images appeared to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to bolster its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs–bases that will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with efficiency across the disputed region.

The U.S. and its allies raised ref flags and held press conferences to express disapproval but effectively the Chinese continued their projects unabated.

Fast forward to February 2018, when new satellite imagery shows China’s new military lily pads in the South China Sea may have an even more nefarious purpose in the form of full on intelligence communications nodes. On Saturday CSIS released another report, this time comparing its own satellite images and aerial photos released by the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this month.

CSIS says the photos add more detail than previously available but do not show new capabilities so much as reinforcing their earlier point that “these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.”

The report finds the northeastern corner of Fiery Cross Reef is now equipped with a communications or sensor array bigger than those found on other artificial islands in the Spratlys. Fiery Cross is one of the seven reefs Beijing turned into islands in the Spratlys. It is the smallest and the southermost of the “Big Three”, which also includes Subi, or Zhubi in Chinese, and Mischief, or Meiji.

Construction on Fiery Cross Reef:

Image courtesy of CSIS/Philippine Inquirer

Specific construction on Fiery Cross according the CSIS:

  1. The northern end of the base’s 3,000-meter runway, which was completed in late 2015.
  2. Hangars to accommodate four combat aircraft. Hangar space for another 20 combat aircraft and four larger hangars, capable of housing bombers, refueling tankers, and large transport aircraft, have been built farther south along the runway. All the hangars were completed in early 2017.
  3. A tall tower housing a sensor/communications facility topped by a radome, completed in late 2016.
  4. A field of upright poles erected in 2017. The original notations on the aerial photos identify this only as a communication facility, but it is most likely a high frequency radar array like the one built on Cuarteron Reef two years earlier.
  5. One of the four point defense facilities built around the base in 2016. Similar point defenses exist on all of China’s artificial islands, sporting a combination of large guns (identified in one of the aerial photos of Johnson Reef as having 100-mm barrels) and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS) emplacements.
  6. A large communications/sensor array completed during 2017. None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area.
  7. Three towers housing sensor/communications facilities topped by radomes, completed in 2017.

Additional Construction of Concern

Subi Reef, just 12 nautical miles from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island: China has built a large lighthouse, a 3,000-metre airstrip, a high-frequency radar array and underground storage tunnels that could be used for ammunition.


Mischief Reef: Three towers housing sensor or communications facilities topped by a dome to protect radar equipment were completed in 2017.

Gaven Reef: a solar panel array was built in 2015, along with other facilities such as wind turbines, a tall tower housing a communications facility and an administrative center.

Fiery Cross was the site of the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering an estimated 100,000 square metres (27 acres).

What Say you China?

Beijing has been accused of militarizing the South China Sea, which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam but has repeatedly rejected those accusations. Their actions continue to say otherwise.

In order to wield power over this region–to create a sphere of influence–China needs to dissuade all others concerned from any further resistance. Strategic locations like Fiery Cross have been talked about as potential command and control centers for Chinese activity in the Spratlys since the early 1980’s – it appears once again that while the world was involved in other things, the Chinese made their plans into reality.


South China Sea: Philippines President Duterte says China’s military facilities intended for U.S. — Does China Have the Philippines by the throat or bank account?

February 20, 2018


In this July 2013 photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 88) is underway in the Philippine Sea. Lassen recently sailed near China’s artificial island on Subi Reef in the disputed sea, US defense officials said on Tuesday.

US Navy/Declan Barnes/Released


Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – February 20, 2018 – 10:59am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed China’s construction of military outposts in the South China Sea, saying that it is not intended for the Philippines.

Despite Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, the president stressed that the disputed area is part of the country’s territory.

“It’s not intended for us. The contending ideological powers of the world or the geopolitics has greatly changed. It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think would destroy them and that is America,” Duterte said in a speech before the Chinese business club.

RELATED: Philippines insists on dialogue with China amid completed airbase in South China Sea

Duterte, who has been pursuing closer ties with Beijing, also criticized the past administration for not addressing China’s massive land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What were they doing during their time? Why did they not start to build things there, structures that China is doing now?” Duterte said.

In 2014, the Philippines, under the Aquino administration, submitted a case to the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal against China over competing South China Sea claims.

A year after the Philippines filed the arbitration, it was reported that China is transforming Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island. Beijing then said that they are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue, fishery services and other administrative services for China and neighboring countries.


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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

In July 2016, the UN-backed tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment under the Convention on the Law of the Sea upon constructing artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

By the end of 2017, China has nearly completed installing military facilities in its “big three” islands in the Spratlys – Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross reefs.

A report from US-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative shows that China is likely using Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef as its intelligence hub in the Spratlys.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

“None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area,” the report read.



We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)



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

Japan bolsters maritime defense in southern territory

February 8, 2018

Foreign journalists pose in front of a Japanese coast guard vessel docked at the Ishigaki port in Okinawa, Japan. The JCG committed 16 of this 1,500-ton ship to secure its southern front and other areas in the East China Sea. Jaime Laude

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) – February 9, 2018 – 12:01am

ISHIGAKI Island, Okinawa — Learning from the Philippine experience with China in the South China Sea,  Japan has started bolstering its maritime defenses in this southernmost maritime territory.

Yoshitaka Nakayama, mayor of this island city whose territorial and maritime jurisdictions cover the Senkaku group of islands currently being claimed by China, said they don’t want the Spratly experience repeated in Japan.

“The Spratly experience is a learning experience for us,” said Nakayama, whose mayoralty post will be put to test in elections set two weeks from now.

Since the collision of a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese Coast Guard vessel in Senkaku, the JCG are now regularly patrolling the area.

Aside from the newly operational, five-billion yen coast guard port facilities with 15 huge vessels, discussions are underway for the deployment of Japan Self Defense Force.

At present no military personnel are deployed on the island, except for police and coast guard personnel.

Nakayama said talks are ongoing for the deployment of air-to-surface and air-to-ship missiles in this island fast becoming a tourist site for Japanese and other nationals.

Nakayama said he would respect the decision of the central government to deploy land-based forces in the island city and listen to the decision of a majority of his constituents.

Residents on the island, who are mostly engaged in fishing and surgarcane farming, are divided over plans to deploy land-based troops and They said they don’t want to be the first target of an attack should war break out either between China and Japan or Japan against North Korea.

Aside from maritime security concerns with China, Japan is also dealing with a threat of missile attack from North Korea.

Philippine foreign policy 

Meanwhile, the Philippines is gradually benefiting in terms of economic development from President Duterte’s independent foreign policy, a Tokyo-based think tank said.

Kunihiko Miyake, research director of a private funded organization Cannon Institute for Global Studies, said that aside from the Philippines’ allies from the West, Duterte’s strategy is working and is doing good for the country.

Special case to this, he said, is Duterte’s cozying up with China, which is not only  an emerging military power in the region but also an economic giant around the globe.

“His strategy is correct. Getting as much support and assistance from China while massaging the back of the US and Japan,” Miyake said, referring to Duterte.

This shift in foreign policy, has brought huge amount of foreign investments to the Philippines in terms of infrastructure development to spur economic growth.

With highly improved relations, China committed to finance at least three infrastructure projects in the Philippines worth $3.4 billion, which could be rolled out in the first half of this year, the Japan Times reported last year.

The projects were part of the Philippines’ infrastructure wish list presented to China for possible financing, either through grants or loans, three months after Duterte visited China in October 2016.

These projects cover loan agreements on building irrigation, water supply and railways in Luzon and Mindanao.

Last year, Japan pledged to provide close to P60 billion in loans to help the Philippines fund three key infrastructure and development projects, including the construction of a subway system in Metro Manila.

All these projects are aimed at upgrading and modernizing the Philippines’ aging infrastructure to  lift its growth rate to as much as eight percent, create more jobs and reduce poverty.

The Philippines’ highly improved foreign relations with China are timely because Beijing has so much money to spend as a result of its unprecedented economic rise, according to other Japan policy experts said.

But Miyake warned that this economic phenomenon being enjoyed by Beijing would not last forever.

He compared China to a poor, grown-up boy who suddenly acquired massive wealth and doesn’t know how to handle and manage his assets.

“China wants to control everything,” Miyake said in reference to Beijing’ flexing economic and military muscle not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

But there has to be an on end to this, Miyake said, pointing  out that no power in the history of mankind lasts forever.

He said sooner or later, Beijing would feel the economic crunch and that this early, it should reshape its strategy. He projected this to happen in a couple of years.

“All (highly developed) countries experienced this and by 2020, Beijing will  start experiencing this also,” Miyake said.

He said global order would eventually prevail and have a direct bearing on China, noting that Beijing committed a grave mistake when it rejected a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the United Nations that invalidated its maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China jets on cruise mission

China has sent jet fighters to the South China Sea for joint combat cruise missions, according to a report published in a Chinese newspaper.

The Global Times quoted an announcement by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force on Wednesday that the Su-35 Russian-made advanced fighters were dispatched to the South China Sea, which a retired major general said could be a reaction to provocation by the United States in January.

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The PLA Air Force said on its official Weibo social media account that this is a pragmatic action for the air force to fulfill its mission in the new era and conduct a combat training military exercise.

US destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 miles of the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the South China Sea under what the US Navy referred to as a freedom of navigation operation.

Hopper sailed near the island on Jan. 17 as part of its Western Pacific deployment.

China’s foreign ministry protested the move, saying the destroyer sailed near Huangyan Dao, as the shoal is called in China, without permission from the Chinese government.

The report said the Su-35 is a multirole fighter aircraft that can attack targets on the ground and sea. The fighter can significantly improve the combat capability of the air force overseas.– With Pia Lee-Brago


Philippines: China “extracting as much as they can” from Duterte on Scarborough issue, expert says — Is Duterte a Chinese “Yes Man”?

February 2, 2018
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China will hold off from building in the contested Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) until they have “extracted as much as they can” from the current administration, a maritime expert said Friday.

“There’s a political decision that if China feels right now it is winning, why provoke crisis with the Duterte administration?” Greg Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, told reporters Friday.

Reports circulated last year that China was preparing to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal.

But President Rodrigo Duterte is holding on to a promise made by China last year that it will not build on Scarborough Shoal. Filipino fishermen were also allowed to fish in the shoal but with Chinese coast guard ships nearby.

“Last year, [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana said he expects the Chinese to eventually build something over Scarborough. I do, too. It’s a matter of when, not if. It’s a matter of what they built so maybe they won’t build another giant island….maybe it’s a small facility,” Poling said.

Duterte, who has established warmer ties with China when he became President in exchange of economic assistance from the regional superpower, put aside the Philippines’ arbitral win against China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

“You know, day by day the Chinese are allowed to strengthen their control to South China Sea and the Philippines does nothing in response. If they overplay their hand at Scarborough Shoal, Malacañang might be forced to respond,” Poling said.

“I think they will hold off and build in Scarborough until they feel like they have extracted as much as they can from the Duterte government,” he added.

While the Scarborough Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, it was declared as a common traditional fishing ground for neighboring countries in the international court ruling. /jpv

Read more:
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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the   in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: Proposed federal gov’t set-up wants Sabah included in Philippine territory

January 30, 2018
“There should be a way that is acceptable under international laws to assert our claim to Sabah.” Bing Maps

MANILA, Philippines — A member of a consultative committee that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed to review the 1987 Constitution said he would propose the inclusion of Sabah in the Philippine territory as part of the country’s shift to a federal system of government.

“There should be a way that is acceptable under international laws to assert our claim to Sabah,” former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said in an interview with ANC.

“I think we can defer it a little bit more but to say that we stop doing it is not in the context of my proposal,” he added.

The switch to a federal system was one of the key planks of Duterte’s election campaign. The country currently employs a unitary form of government with much of the power emerging from the central government.

RELATED: Controversial features of proposed federal charter by House sub-committee

Under Pimentel’s proposal for a new federal government, as reported by ANC, the Philippines will be divided into 12 federal states: Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Minparom, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.

Metro Manila will be the “federal capital,” Pimentel said, adding that Sabah could be the 13th federal state.

“Eventually once we have asserted our sovereignty and rights over Sabah, we should include Sabah. Not only Sabah, but also Scarborough, Benham Rise, and Spratlys,” Pimentel said.

The Sulu sultanate used to rule over parts of southern Philippines and Sabah. In 1963, the British government transferred Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippines claims that Sabah was only leased, not ceded, to the British North Borneo Co. The heirs of the sultan of Sulu continue to receive lease payments for Sabah.

Malaysia, however, maintains that the international community has been recognizing Sabah as part of its territory since the formation of the federation in 1963.

The dispute over Sabah landed on the headlines again in 2013 after shootouts sparked between armed members of a Filipino faction staking an ancient claim on Sabah state and Malaysian authorities.

READ: Duterte to pursue Sabah claim

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



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

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.




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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”


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Deepsea Metro I

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

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.


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

 (July 8, 2017)

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