Posts Tagged ‘Spratlys’

China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check

May 15, 2017


China and Vietnam will manage and properly control their maritime disputes, avoiding actions to complicate or widen them, so as to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the two nations said in a joint communique China released on Monday.

Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.

After what China said were “positive” talks on the South China Sea last week between President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the joint statement stressed the need to control differences.


Both countries agreed to “manage and properly control maritime disputes, not take any actions to complicate the situation or expand the dispute, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea”, it added.

The document, released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said both had a “candid and deep” exchange of views on maritime issues, and agreed to use an existing border talks mechanism to look for a lasting resolution.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Besides Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about $5 trillion of trade passes each year.

Last year, tension between Beijing and Hanoi rose after Taiwan and U.S. officials said China had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracels archipelago it controls.

Vietnam called China’s actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels.

In 2014, tension between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.

Relations have gradually improved since, with exchanges of high-level visits, though the regional military buildup continues, including China’s construction of airstrips on man-made islands in the busy waterway.

Quang arrived in Beijing last week for a state visit and to attend a two-day conference ending Monday on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond, through massive infrastructure investment.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Filipino Official Launches Book on China’s Sea Claims Online

May 4, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine Supreme Court justice has launched a book that is highly critical of China’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea and said he will spread it through the Internet to overcome China’s censorship and reach its people.

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

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



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


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

Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea: The South China Sea Dispute

May 2, 2017

By Ellen T. Tordesillas

Posted at May 01 2017 05:52 PM

Image result for Duterte visits Chinese ships, photos

Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte visits Chinese warships in his home town, Davao city, southern Philippines May 1, 2017. (Reuters)

The political winds have indeed shifted.

On the same day that the China-friendly statement of this year’s chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, President Rodrigo Duterte, was released to media, Philippine and Chinese flags were seen raised on a Chinese warship, Chang Chun (DDG 150) that docked in Davao city pier.

This would have been unthinkable in the past administration.

These developments may cause some to be confused on the issues on South China Sea where we are contesting the almost all-encompassing claim of China. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have also overlapping claims with China in the area.

On Thursday, May 4 at 5 p.m at Turf Room of the Manila Polo Club in Makati, Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s E-book, “Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea: The South China Sea Dispute” will be launched.

The 264-page E-book is a collation of over 140 lectures and speeches of Justice Carpio on the South China Sea dispute which he delivered in various fora in the Philippines and abroad. It’s a must read to remind ourselves of the basic issue of the South China Sea dispute.

There is no lack of ideas of turning South China Sea from an area of contention to a zone of cooperation. In many of his speeches, Carpio has mentioned converting Spratlys to an International Marine Peace Park.

He elaborates on it on page 224.

Excerpts : “The eggs and larvae of fish that spawn in the Spratlys are carried by currents to the coasts of China, Vietnam, Luzon, Palawan, Malaysia, Brunei, Natuna Islands, as well as the Sulu Sea. The Spratlys are the breeding ground of fish in the South China Sea.

“Of the total world annual fish catch, 12 percent comes from the South China Sea, valued at US$21.8 billion. The South China Sea has 3,365 species in 263 families of fish. The South China Sea is one of the top five most productive fishing zones in the world in terms of total annual fish catch.199 Twelve countries with two billion people border the South China Sea. A large number of the coastal population of these countries depend on fish from the South China Sea for their protein.

“To ensure that the Spratlys will remain the South China Sea’s breeding ground where fish spawn, Dr. John W. McManus has proposed that the Spratlys be declared an international marine peace park. This is a win-win solution to the territorial dispute in the Spratlys (the Arbitral Tribunal’s Award does not resolve the territorial dispute). This is particularly favorable to China which takes fifty percent (and growing) of the annual fish catch in the South China Sea.

“All claimant states shall suspend for 100 years their territorial claims and declare all LTEs and high-tide features in the Spratlys, and an area of 3 NM around each feature, as an international marine peace park for the benefit of all coastal states in the South China Sea.

“The claimant states will hold on to whatever islands or structures they now possess. Only coast guard personnel, vessels, and aircraft can be stationed in the Spratlys. The islands or structures can only be used for marine scientific research and eco-tourism.

“There is a precedent to this. The 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan created the Red Sea Marine Peace Park in the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

“Marine ecologists from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam support a Spratlys marine protected area: Kwang-Tsao Shao, a marine-biodiversity expert at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica in Taipei, says that at meetings that include his mainland peers, there is consensus from ecologists on both sides of the strait that the region should be set aside as a marine protected area.

“Prof. Edgardo Gomez, Philippine national scientist for marine biology, and other marine biologists at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, support a marine protected area in the Spratlys.

“Professors Nguyen Chu Hoi and Vu Hai Dang, Vietnamese marine ecologists, support a marine protected area in the Spratlys.

Dr. McManus has warned that: If we don’t do this (establish a marine protected area), we are headed toward a major, major fisheries collapse in a part of the world where [that] will lead to mass starvation.”


Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.


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


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



South China Sea: Chinese warship harassed fishers from the Philippines, fired shots, lawmaker says — Philippine Government Not Being Truthful?

April 24, 2017

Magdalo Party-List Representative Gary C. AlejanoINQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

It was China’s Navy and not its Coast Guard that fired shots to drive away Filipino fishermen from Union Banks in the heavily disputed Spratly archipelago on April 9, making the incident more unsettling than previously thought, a lawmaker said on Sunday.

“According to the initial reports, it was the Chinese Coast Guard that was involved in the Union Banks incident. However, in our meeting with the fishermen themselves, we [learned] that it was actually a Chinese Navy ship [that was involved],” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said in a statement.

Alejano, a former Marine officer, expressed concern that China’s aggressive action in the Spratlys was carried out by a “gray ship.”

The term “gray ship” refers to the navy of any country. “White ship” refers to the coast guard.

Different missions

Alejano emphasized the difference between the missions of the navy and coast guard.

The coast guard is tasked with enforcing maritime law and to conduct search and rescue, while the navy is tasked with fighting for the country at sea during war, he said.

Alejano warned: “The aggressive act of the Chinese Navy could trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty and there is a danger that the situation may escalate.”

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States, an attack on a Philippine vessel in Philippine waters is an attack on the United States.

The United States has repeatedly said its commitment to defend the Philippines is “ironclad.”

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) called West Philippine Sea.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea, where $5 trillion in global trade passes every year and where islets, reefs and atolls are believed to be sitting atop vast energy reserves.

Union Banks is a large drowned atoll located 230 km west of Palawan, well within the Philippines’ EEZ.

According to a television report last week, the incident happened on April 9 near Gavin Reef (international name: Gaven Reef), one of the reefs in Union Banks claimed by the Philippines but occupied and had been built on by China.

Alejano traveled to Mariveles in Bataan province on Saturday to look for the fishermen and their boat, the Princess Johanna. He found them in Sisiman village, Mariveles, and they told him that a big gray ship watched as a gray speedboat came at them firing warning shots.

Alejano showed the fishermen photographs of Chinese Navy ships and the People’s Liberation Army uniform, and they told him both resembled what they had seen at Union Banks.

Orlan Dumat, 28, one of the fishermen, said seven Chinese men in gray uniforms came in a speedboat and turned back his group by firing shots in the air.

Frightened, the fishermen cut the anchor, instead of hauling it in, and ran for it.The speedboat gave chase, firing. The fishermen noticed that shots were fired near their boat’s outriggers.

Dumat said one of the outriggers was hit but no one on the boat was hurt.

“As we sailed away, the Chinese boat continued to tail us,” he said.

How the story got out

The fishermen returned to Mariveles and kept the incident to themselves, but a member of the boat owners’ association in the village told the story to a local journalist.

When their story finally reached the government’s attention, Philippine Coast Guard officers went to Mariveles to investigate, but chided the fishermen for telling their story to the press first before reporting what happened to the authorities.

The Mariveles fishermen’s experience was probably the first incident that appeared to involve the Chinese Navy. All previous incidents in the West Philippine Sea involved the Chinese Coast Guard.

Alejano last week urged the government to file a strong protest against China over the incident.

Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told reporters that the incident was under investigation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was still verifying the incident.

The Princess Johanna left Mariveles on March 25 with a crew of 25 and arrived at Union Banks on April 9.

The fishermen told Alejano that they go to Union Banks every year or whenever fish in their traditional fishing grounds in the Spratlys, among them Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef), were scarce.

They said they noticed concrete structures at Union Banks that were not there last year.

The fishermen were probably referring to the structures on the artificial islands built by China on three reefs in Union Banks, all claimed by the Philippines—Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef), Gavin Reef and McKennan Reef (Hughes Reef).


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China has expressed alarm over the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año to Pag-Asa Island last Friday, saying it ran counter to an “important consensus” reached between the leaders of the two countries.  Photo: Lu Kang, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. File Photo 

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

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

Despite all this:

South China Sea: Defense Secretary’s visit in islands “just routine” for the Philippines — But China was “gravely concerned about and dissatisfied” with the trip

April 23, 2017
Pag-asa Island, part of Palawan province, in the disputed West Philippine Sea is controlled by the Philippines despite Chinese claims of sovereignty over it. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The visit of security officials to Pag-asa Island was routine and was in line with international law, Malacañang said Sunday after China expressed alarm over their trip to the island in the disputed Spratly chain.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top military officials visited Pag-asa Island in Palawan province on Friday to inspect the facilities in the area, which is inhabited by about 200 people.
The visit was meant to enable officials to assess what improvements can be done in the island, the second largest in the Spratlys.
The government has earmarked around P1.6 billion to develop Pag-asa and is planning to build a beaching ramp, fish port, radio station, ice plant, water desalination facility, sewage facility and houses for soldiers.
The visit did not sit well with China, which claims historical rights over almost 90 percent of areas in the South China Sea, including Pag-asa.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said China was “gravely concerned about and dissatisfied” with the trip, which he claimed went against the consensus reached by Manila and Beijing “to properly deal with the South China Sea issue.”
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Lu Kang — File Photo
Lu also urged the Philippines to “faithfully follow the consensus” between the two countries, “maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea” and “promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations.”

Routine patrol

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Lorenzana’s visit to Pag-asa was just part of a “routine” patrol in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
“The Philippines has long been undertaking customary and routine maritime patrol and overflight in the West Philippine Sea which are lawful activities under international law. Such flights will likewise enable us to reach our municipality,” Abella said in a statement.
Abella said the visit was also in line with the government’s aim to improve the quality of life of Filipinos in the island.
“The visit of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Pag-asa Island is part of the efforts to improve the safety, welfare, livelihood of Filipinos residing and living in the municipality of Kalayaan which is part of the province of Palawan,” the presidential spokesman said.
China has used a similar argument to justify reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

China challenges PAF planes

While on its way to Pag-asa, the military plane carrying Lorenzana and military officials were warned by Chinese forces to leave the area but the pilot insisted that they were in Philippine airspace.
Lorenzana has downplayed the incident, saying Philippine air assets conducting resupply operations usually receive warnings from Chinese forces.
During President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China last October, Manila and Beijing agreed to hold dialogues on the South China Sea dispute, a move that Chinese officials claimed signaled the “full recovery” of the friendship between the two countries.
The Duterte administration’s decision to hold dialogues with China on the dispute is a departure from the policy of former President Benigno Aquino III, who preferred that the issue be tackled through multilateral channels.
In 2013, the Philippines challenged the legality of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea before an international arbitral tribunal in Hague.
The court decided in favor of the Philippines last year, ruling that China’s maritime claim has no legal basis.
China has refused to recognize the ruling, dismissing it as a “mere piece of paper” that would not affect its territorial rights.
Duterte has said he is ready to set aside the arbitral ruling to enhance the Philippines’ ties with China. He stressed, though, that he would not bargain away the Philippines’ maritime claims and that there would be a time when he would bring up the arbitral ruling before the Chinese government.

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

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

Despite all this:

What is China so passionate about in the Philippine Seas?

April 23, 2017

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Philippine soldier stands guard over the South China Sea.

By: Artemio V. Panganiban – @inquirerdotnet — Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:20 AM April 23, 2017

Why is China so passionate in owning Scarborough Shoal and several maritime features in the Spratlys in the South China Sea (SCS)? And yet, so easily conceded the Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise?

No controversy. The short answer is that Benham Rise is outside the so-called nine-dash line under which China claims historic title and sovereignty over almost the entire SCS.

But unlike the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal, Benham Rise is totally submerged in water ranging from 50 to 5,000 meters in depth. This submarine status makes the exploitation of its vast resources extremely expensive and difficult to undertake.

On the other hand, the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal are located in much shallower waters; in fact, China has enlarged some of the isles and rocks therein, not only to extract mineral resources but also, more visibly, to construct airports, seaports, buildings and other structures.

Mendoza’s primer. Superlawyer Estelito P. Mendoza recently wrote a primer on this subject, published by the UP Law Center. As one of the two vice chairs of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which convened during martial law in December 1973, he had an insider view of the negotiations.

(The other vice chair was then Foreign Undersecretary Jose Ingles. Alternating as chairs were then Sen. Arturo Tolentino and then Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos. All are now deceased.)

In 1982, the UN finally adopted the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) that came into force in 1994. Mendoza related that our delegation was able to include the “archipelagic principles” in the Unclos, and eventually the “ultimate compromise … to have a 12-mile territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles…”

On March 10, 2009, Republic Act No. 9522 was approved. It defined the baselines from which to measure our 1) 12-nautical-mile (NM) territorial sea, 2) 24-NM contiguous zone, 3) 200-NM exclusive economic zone, and 4) 350-NM continental shelf. (See my column on 4/2/17 for details.)

Thereafter, the Philippines notified the UN Secretary General (UNSG) of the baselines defined under RA 9522. It claimed the status of an “archipelagic state,” composed of the “Philippine archipelago” (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) plus two “regimes of islands,” the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal (or Bajo de Masinloc).

Soon after, China submitted to the UNSG a “Note” dated April 13, 2009, alleging that RA 9522 “illegally claims Huangyan Island (referred to as ‘Bajo de Masinloc’ in the Act) and some islands and reefs of Nansha Islands (referred to as ‘The Kalayaan Island Group’ in the Act) of China… The Chinese Government hereby reiterates that Huangyan Island and Nansha Islands have been part of the territory of China since ancient time.”

Notably, it did not contest our rights over the “Philippine archipelago” and implicitly its corresponding territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf including Benham Rise.

No ruling on land. Mendoza opined, “Considering that … China had taken possession and occupied several of the islands (or features) within the Kalayaan Group of Islands and over Bajo de Masinloc,” the Philippines should have initiated a proceeding “in regard to these matters.”

As it is, however, our arbitral claim and the arbitral award itself did not settle the issue of Chinese occupation and sovereignty over these islands or features. In fact, the arbitral tribunal had no jurisdiction to award title or sovereignty over land territory. Consequently, China cannot be expected to surrender its occupation or sovereignty over them.

Mendoza recalled that in a conversation with then President Ferdinand Marcos, then Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, during a state visit here in June 1975, advised that negotiation is the only solution. And if no agreement is reached, how should the matter be resolved? His answer was simply “to talk some more, and more until agreement is reached.”

Consistent with this “talk, talk, talk” approach is the Duterte administration’s pursuit of the proposed Code of Conduct between Asean and China, spoken about by Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo in a recent Inquirer Forum. Is this a better strategy to resolve the impasse in the SCS? (To be continued.)

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

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

Despite all this:

Taiwan to increase military presence on South China Sea island

April 20, 2017
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   April 18, 2017 at 9:44 PM

Satellite images taken in 2016 show construction on Taiwan-occupied Taiping Island in the South China Sea. Taiwan’s defense ministry is now proposing more artillery on the island. File Image courtesy of Google Maps

April 18 (UPI) — Taiwan continues to militarize an island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Taiwan’s Apple Daily reported Tuesday the Taiwanese military is proposing reinforcements on Taiping, also known as Itu Aba Island.

A remote-controlled multiple rocket launcher with anti-landing capabilities would form the backbone of a coastal defense system, Taipei’s ministry of national defense stated in its proposal.

Taipei is also reviewing the possibility of deploying a short-range automated defense XTR-102 weapons system, which includes two T-75 20mm automatic guns.

The weapons, developed by Taiwan’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, can be all be operated remotely, the Taipei Times reported.

Taiwan has currently deployed 40mm anti-aircraft artillery, a 120mm mortar and AT-4 anti-armor rockets.

Militarization of China-claimed islands in the South China Sea is ongoing, but international interest has waned in Beijing’s actions with the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China has already built runways and aircraft hangars on artificial islands in the Spratlys.

In early April, China deployed its J-11 fighter jets to the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.

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Chinese J-11 fighter jet

Vietnam has placed a system of long-range rockets on an island close to Taiping, and the Philippines is expected to conduct a joint drill with U.S. forces in May.

Taiwan’s defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said the ministry has a “well-rounded and comprehensive plan” to defend Taiwan’s territorial waters, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

In September 2016, Taiwan had already begun building anti-aircraft defenses on Taiping Island.

Satellite images showed the Taiwan-occupied island includes what appears to be anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers.

Philippines: Troops present in 9 detachments in the South China Sea islands

April 6, 2017
/ 07:23 PM April 06, 2017
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Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said government troops have been long deployed in each of the nine detachments of the Philippine claims in the Spratlys in the South China Sea.

“We have nine islands in the Kalayaan Island Group or KIG (Spratlys) that are already in our possession since long ago, including Pag-asa,” he said in a statement to reporters.

On his visit to Palawan-based Western Command, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the construction of structures and planting of the Philippine flags in all areas claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys.

“We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control,” the President said.

Duterte also mentioned plans of visiting Pagasa Island on Independence Day on June 12.

“Mukhang agawan kasi ito ng isla eh (This looks like an island-grabbing thing). And what’s ours now, at least kunin na natin (take what is ours) and make a strong point natin there that it is ours,” he said.

Lorenzana said that Marine troops are present in each of the islands claimed by the Philippines.

“The President wants facilities built such as barracks for the men, water and sewage disposal systems, power generators, light houses, and shelters for fishermen,” he said.

Pressed further on what the President meant by his orders, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that the President was fully aware of the situation in the Spratlys.

“I think what he meant was he wanted to improve the living conditions of the troops stationed there,” he said.

Padilla also thinks that the tensions in the South China Sea would not escalate with the President’s planned visit in a few months’ time.

“We have opened up bilateral consultations with the Chinese and they have always mentioned that everything will always be discussed peacefully,” he said.

The Philippines has detachments in Ayungin Shoal, Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island, and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island.

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Spratly Islands

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South China Sea: Chinese Building Military Facilities On Philippine Soil

March 30, 2017
This March 9 satellite image released by the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative shows that all hangars for 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes have been completed on Subi (Zamora) Reef. AMTI/CSIS via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government said it is yet to verify the completion of Chinese military assets in the Spratly (Kalayaan) Islands in the South China Sea, the country’s top diplomat said Thursday.

This is despite Washington-based think tank CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s (AMTI) recently released satellite images showing the nearly complete construction of infrastructures on Subi (Zamora), Mischief (Panganiban) and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reefs.

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

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said that the AMTI is basically suggesting that the facilities could accommodate military assets when it took the photos.

“We take it very seriously but I think when they say that this would accommodate this and that… We will have to verify with China,” Manalo said in an interview with ANC’s “Headstart.”

The think tank reported that the facilities in the three air bases would allow Beijing to deploy military assets including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands any time.

The hangars on the “Big Three” islands can accommodate 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes that can be used for transport or refueling, according to the report.

China’s facility on Woody Island of the Paracel Islands would allow military aircraft to operate nearly the entire South China Sea.

Manalo, however, said that the Philippines would have to ask China first on their intention of building the facilities.

“These could also be used for civilian uses and or military. We’re not yet sure so we have to really see what happens,” Manalo said.

The Foreign Affairs secretary said that the Philippines would have to look at this issue in the context of the country’s approach to the South China Sea issue.

“The Philippines is fully committed to seeking a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea,” the secretary said.

Manalo reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that he would set aside the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the issue.

On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued its award on Manila’s complaint against Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when it constructed artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The country’s top diplomat, however, said that Duterte will raise the arbitral tribunal’s ruling with China “at the appropriate time.”

“I can’t divulge exactly how we’d say it but we would be pointing out that these construction are taking place on islands within our EEZ,” Manalo said.


Comment from Peace and Freedom: Chinese resolve in the South China Sea has remained  the same for several years. The Philippines has been unable to set a policy and stick with it since Prersident Detarte was elected….



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

March 26, 2017

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

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

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

By Rachael Bale
National Geographic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fishermen on the Front Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

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


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

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


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

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

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

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

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


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

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


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

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

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

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

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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


 (August 25, 2016)

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

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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

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



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

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