Posts Tagged ‘West Philippine Sea’

Philippines: Time for Dutertismo To Change Course

October 14, 2017


President Rodrigo Duterte addresses delegates at the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and its 50th Grand Celebration, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017, at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

(First published on October 13) The sharp decline in public satisfaction with and trust in President Rodrigo Duterte may reflect the end of his “honeymoon period,” as the general public begins to critically reexamine their expectations for this administration and juxtapose them with its actual performance. Based on the third quarter survey of Social Weather Stations (SWS), 67 percent of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the president’s performance, while 14 percent were undecided and 19 percent were dissatisfied. This leads to Duterte gaining a net rating (satisfied minus dissatisfied) rating of +48, a whopping 18-point drop from his +66 rating during the second quarter. The same survey indicates that 73 percent of Filipinos continue to trust Duterte, while 15 percent remain undecided and 12 percent give him little trust. This gives him a net trust rating of +60 (very good), down from +75 in June.

The release of the survey results was exceptionally timely, as the Stratbase ADR Institute had organized a roundtable discussion on Tuesday that aimed to flesh out the successes and shortfalls of Duterte’s first year in office. Featuring Richard Javad Heydarian, non-resident fellow and author of the Special Study titled “Duterte’s First Year in Office: Assessing the Balance Sheet,” the roundtable provided critical avenue for select leaders in the political-diplomatic field, business community, and civil society to exchange ideas and insights as to why Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings suddenly plunged, and what the Duterte administration can do in order to reverse the downward trend and win back public support for its security, governance and development agendas.

Major policy ruptures and political risk

During his presentation, Heydarian cited major ruptures in policy and causes of political risk which, in varying degrees, could have had detrimental impact on Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings. The most controversial of which is the War on Drugs, which has not only experienced growing criticism at home but has also raised alarm within the greater international community. Based on the latest report of the Philippine National Police on the anti-illegal drugs campaign, there were already 6,225 drug-related deaths between July 1, 2016 and Sept. 16, 2017. Of these, 3,850 individuals died in police operations, 2,290 individuals died due to drug-related deaths and 85 government personnel (82 policemen, 3 soldiers) were killed in action.

According to Heydarian, the problem with the war on drugs is that it has been inextricably linked with the erosion of basic human rights and civil liberties, owing to the increase in extrajudicial killings and lack of accountability of law enforcement agencies and other unknown perpetrators of criminal violence. This prompted legislators from the United States and European Union, as well as legal luminaries of the International Criminal Court, to voice out their concern over the ballooning casualties which, if left unaddressed, may incur reputational and economic costs for the Philippines through expulsion from the United Nations Human Rights Council and imposition of economic sanctions, respectively.

Aside from the war on drugs, Heydarian identified “debt trap” Dutertenomics and fiscal or tax reforms as two other major causes of political risk that need judicious evaluation and effective implementation. Citing the Pulse Asia survey dated March 2017, Heydarian recounted that the three most urgent national concerns are economic in nature: improving/increasing the pay of workers (43 percent), controlling inflation (41 percent), and creating more jobs (39 percent). While Duterte deserves credit for his determination to advance his two signature initiatives, Build, Build, Build, Infrastructure Project and the tax reform, in order to level the economic playing field, improve the domestic investment climate, and render economic growth more inclusive, concerns over the sustainability of projects, the progressive leftist-technocratic divide within his Cabinet, and policy predictability, among others remain. In addition, overreliance on Official Development Assistance (ODA) with high interest rates from prospective donor countries such as China may lead to another wave of ballooning of the country’s foreign debt.

Opportunities for positive change

On the brighter side, Heydarian noted that the Philippine government has also made progress on some national issues. First, Duterte ought to be credited for pushing for a more inclusive and comprehensive peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as keeping Malacañang’s gates open for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

Should Duterte succeed in brokering enduring peace agreements both with the Moro and Communist insurgents, the Philippine defense and security establishment will be able to stave off the advance of Islamic State in Mindanao, facilitate agrarian reform and rural development in Communist-infested areas, and devote much of its energy on external defense, especially in light of China’s growing assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea. Second, Duterte’s unwavering support for the anti-trust regulation and the passage of key constitutional amendments, such as the relaxation of restrictions on foreign investments, would contribute to creating a more stable policy environment which, in turn, would usher the democratization of the domestic economy and improvement of the country’s business and investment climate.

Echoing Heydarian, it is imperative for Duterte to focus less on exacting political vendetta and focus more on state-building. In other words, he ought to address the issues closest to the gut of ordinary Juan, namely: preservation of law and order, generation of economic opportunities and strengthening of local institutions of governance.

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


China envoy insists on right of China to fish around Pag-asa in the Philippines — China not keeping promises?

October 6, 2017

Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua invokes commitment to the Declaration of Conduct, an agreement China has repeatedly violated in the past

Published 12:11 PM, October 05, 2017
Updated 12:11 PM, October 05, 2017

CAMP AGUINALDO VISIT. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua is in Camp Aguinaldo on October 5 to hand over Chinese assault rifles

CAMP AGUINALDO VISIT. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua is in Camp Aguinaldo on October 5 to hand over Chinese assault rifles

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua insisted on the rights of the Chinese to fish near Pag-asa (Thitu) amid protests against their presence around sandbars near the Philippine-occupied island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“You may see some presence of Chinese ships or presence of Filipino ships but that’s a part of what we say overlapping of disputed area,” Zhao said on Thursday, October 5, when asked about the reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa.

“It’s quite natural to see some of the fishing boats to be there. They are carrying out their daily fishing. You don’t have to be alarmed. Both Chinese and Filipino side have a clear understanding of what they are doing,” Zhao added.

The ambassador said there was no cause for alarm because China was committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes. He said China would strictly abide by Article 5 in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

China, however, has violated the DOC when it reclaimed 7 reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

There were concerns that China was eyeing to occupy the sandbars near Pag-asa Island that have long served as traditional fishing grounds for Filipino fishermen in the island. A bamboo pole was reportedly planted on one of the sandbars to fly the Chinese flag, but this was later denied by the Philippine government. (READ: 5 Chinese ships spotted near Pag-asa sandbars)

Concerns about the presence of Chinese vessels were first raised by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano in August. He again aired his concern on October 3 because the Chinese ships apparently didn’t leave the area around Pag-Asa Island.

Zhao said Chinese moves to sell or donate defense assets to other claimants in the South China Sea “demonstrates that China has no intention at all to settle it by force.”

“As far as military-to-military relations is concerned, we are enhancing our respective relations with all the claimant states including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. We are even exporting submarines, missiles to some of the claimant states,” he said.

He reiterated calls to look at the “bigger picture” when examining the relationship between the Philippines and China.

“We do have disputes. But we have to put it in proper context. I said repeatedly earlier. It only constitutes 1% of our overall bilateral relationship. We need to look at the bigger picture and focus on friendship and cooperation,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte ushered in warmer ties with China after a bitter conflict over maritime territory. –


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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.


Opinion: Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

October 6, 2017

By Ralph Jennings

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.


  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.


  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”


  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”


  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.


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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.



China Increases Efforts To Claim South China Sea Sandbars Near Philippines

October 5, 2017
Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) said that he received reports that Chinese militia had been harassing Philippine vessels conducting patrols in the three sandbars west of Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea. Rep. Gary Alejano/Released

MANILA, Philippines (First published at 7:30 p.m., Oct.4) — The Chinese are employing new tactics in their bid to claim sandbars near Pag-asa Island as part of the territorial waters of Subi Reef, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Alejano said he received a report that Chinese maritime militia harassed a Philippine patrol vessel conducting a seaborne patrol in the three sandbars west of Pag-asa (international name Thitu) on September 18.

The sandbars are numbered three, two and one with number one as the farthest, as shown in the photo provided by Alejano.

The three sand bars are part of the Pag-asa Island network of sand bars, reefs, and atolls which are under the Philippine control. Rep. Gary Alejano/Released

According to the report, no untoward incident occurred when the Philippine vessel reached sandbar three.

As the vessel neared sandbar two, a Chinese maritime militia less than two nautical miles south sounded its siren continuously to warn the Philippine vessel.

“A People’s Liberation Army Navy and another Chinese maritime militia were positioned just over one [nautical mile] north of sandbar two,” the report read.

Four Chinese maritime militias closed in on the Philippine vessel as it proceeded to sandbar one and sounded their sirens simultaneously.

Alejano described this action as a “deliberate but aggressive action undertaken by Chinese maritime militia to ward off or limit any Philippine vessel from coming near to sandbars.”

The Chinese Navy and Coast Guard have reportedly been stationed permanently in the vicinity of the three sandbars, according to the lawmaker.

“The Chinese have apparently employed a new tactic in pressuring or harassing Philippine vessels patrolling the sand bars. This is an indication that China intends to claim these sandbars as part of the territorial waters of Subi Reef that they have reclaimed,” Alejano said.

‘We should not let guards down’

Alejano warned that the Philippine government must be watchful of the Chinese, particularly on its actions in the disputed West Philippine Sea. The Duterte government has had a rapprochement with China in pursuing a new foreign policy that seemed to have created friction with longstanding ally, United States.

The Philippines and its traditional maritime rival, China, have agreed to restart bilateral negotiations over the row months after an international arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s maritime claims.

“While the country is talking with China, we should not let our guards down. We should be vigilant in guarding our territories and protecting our rights in West Philippine Sea,” he said.

The lawmaker further expressed concern over government troops stationed in the occupied islands facing threats from Beijing.

“They need all the support from our government and the Filipino people. It would be disheartening for them to hear from high government officials that we cannot defend ourselves from any external aggression,” Alejano said.

The Philippines should take lessons from Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, which were snatched by China from the country.

As a low-tide elevation, Subi Reef is not entitled to a 12-nautical mile territorial waters nor a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. This was included in the July 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Pag-asa Islands, on the other hand, is the second largest island in the Spratly Group and is entitled to territorial waters and an exclusive economic zone. The island is part of the province of Palawan.

“Therefore, the Philippines has all the rights to patrol the territorial waters of Pag-asa Island which include the three sandbars located just two to five nautical miles away from it,” Alejano said.

RELATED: Alejano: Chinese flag planted near Philippines-controlled island


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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.



Duterte Administration’s Deal with China is Bad for the Philippines — Our territorial integrity in the South China Sea is a Permanent National Interest

September 13, 2017
05:04 AM September 13, 2017

That, as Lord Palmerston once stated, a nation has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, means that while a nation has permanent interests, it also has fleeting interests. This statement is the central/peripheral approach and the foundation of modern diplomacy. A nation’s central interests are nonnegotiable but it can cede interests that it deems peripheral. Our foreign policy was based on this doctrine until it was replaced by the Duterte administration. (“We abandoned our independent foreign policy,” Opinion, 6/26/17).

In contemporary diplomacy, territorial integrity is a permanent interest for two reasons. First, it impacts national security. You want to create sufficient space between an aggressor and your heartland. A vast territory allows defense in depth. The Soviet Union and China survived German and Japanese onslaughts, respectively, in World War II by trading space for time, until a grand alliance was formed to rescue both countries. Our soldiers resisted Japanese invaders more valiantly than the Chinese in World War II. Nonetheless, we were conquered by Japan while China survived. The difference was that we are a small country while the Chinese have a vast hinterland to which they retreated. The artificial islands that China has built should be our defense outposts; instead, these now represent advance bases for Chinese aggression against us. Sadly, the administration approves of this setup.

Second, abandonment of our right to the West Philippine Sea means we forego the resources of the area which could erase our import bill for oil and gas. More important, we now have an indefensible national territory. Heretofore, the nearest Chinese military base was on Hainan Island 900 kilometers away, outside the range of military aircraft. The artificial islands built by China cut this distance to 300 km. Safeguarding our security will require massive defense outlays. Fifth-generation F-35 jet fighters cost $135 million each. We cannot afford such expensive weapons.

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

The Duterte administration has been touting the $23 billion investment package offered by China as an exchange for the abandonment of our claim on the West Philippine Sea. This is a bad tradeoff and a misrepresentation. The stated amount is not official development assistance (ODA) and, therefore, must be repaid. Since the time of the Marcos regime, each of our leaders brought back from a state visit investment proposals worth billions. But only a miniscule amount of such proposals are realized because: 1) The terms are onerous and better alternatives are available elsewhere; 2) the technology is obsolete or far advanced for our economy; 3) the proposed investment will cause pollution or 4) it is tinged with corruption; and 5) the host government deliberately padded the proposals for PR purposes.

Some of those points are self-evident. Item 4 is exemplified by the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, in which Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies were involved. Item 5 is a common practice of the defunct Soviet Union: Visiting heads of state sign agreements with state-owned enterprises, none of which get implemented. These trade proposals are labelled “ceremonial agreements” and are concluded merely for PR purposes to make a state visit appear successful. They should properly be labelled as diplomatic scams.

It is highly probable that the Chinese investment package contains such dubious proposals. Meaning, we have traded national territory for nothing, in the biggest such scam since the Dutch bought Manhattan from the American Indians for beads worth $24. However, the descendants of the Indians claim it is their ancestors who tricked the Dutch; the land their ancestors “sold” the Dutch actually belonged to another tribe. Unfortunately, the President and his foreign secretary cannot offer a similar alibi. The territory they are trading to the Chinese for scam investments belongs to us under the ruling of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

Hermenegildo C. Cruz was Philippine ambassador to the United Nations in 1984-1986.

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The ruling of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague said that China’s ownership claim of everything north of the “nine dash line” was not valid. Thus, China has no claim under international law. The ruling was made on July 12, 2016, at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

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We abandoned our independent foreign policy

12:06 AM June 26, 2017

Since President Duterte took office, he has been claiming that he is pursuing an “independent foreign policy.” The sad part is that we had an independent foreign policy, until the start of his administration. How we got to this mess may be traced to the often quoted commencement speech of then Sen. Claro M. Recto titled “Our Mendicant Foreign Policy.”

In that speech Recto said: “In the parliament of the United Nations, it is no more difficult to predict that the Philippines will vote with the American Union, than the Ukraine will vote with the Soviet Union. (Author’s note: The Ukraine was then part of the USSR.) American policy has found no more eloquent spokesman or zealous advocate and Russian policy no louder critic or more resourceful opponent than the Philippines. Americans may disagree with their own foreign policy, but it has no better supporters than the Filipinos.”

That statement of Recto is false. We have differed with the United States on issues vital to our national interest. Four months after Recto’s speech at the University of the Philippines on April 17, 1951, America convened the San Francisco Conference to conclude a peace treaty with Japan. It explicitly stated that Japan shall not be required to pay reparations. Japan was then being set up as a bulwark against communism.

We took exception to the US position and insisted that Japan must pay us reparations. We did not sign a treaty with Japan until 1956, with a reparations provision. Thus, we did not kowtow to the United States on an issue vital to our national interest, and won.

The repeated claims that our vote in the United Nations mimics the US vote is the worst misrepresentation of our foreign policy. The UN was formed at the start of the Cold War. The initial split in the UN is termed the East-West conflict, with the East representing the communist countries and the West representing countries outside the Soviet bloc. In the 1960s, a new split developed and was termed the North/South split. The North comprises the industrialized western countries, while the South is composed of Third World countries. This is mainly an economic dispute.

Thus, in East/West disputes, we vote with what is termed the “Western Alliance.” It is logical because we had the Hukbalahap insurgency. However, in the North/South disputes, we always vote with the developing nations against the United States; we have been doing this since 1964 in Unctad I, Geneva.

Critics of our foreign policy have cited our Mutual Defense Treaty with America as an indication of our lack of an independent foreign policy. This is another misrepresentation. A policy of nonalliance is a policy of neutrality. There are only three neutral countries now: Sweden, Switzerland and Finland. A neutral foreign policy is expensive. The three neutral countries cite their own state-of-the-art Leopard II main battle tanks and F-18 Hornets and Gripen jets in their arsenal. We cannot afford such an arsenal.

A country can have alliances with other nations, but it can still have an independent foreign policy so long as it can take initiatives to safeguard its national interest. Thus, England and France are members of Nato, but they have an independent foreign policy because they can assert their sovereign rights when necessary. Our foreign policy thus meets the standard of an independent foreign policy: We are in alliance with America, but we have stood up for our rights against US policy when it concerns our vital national interest.

When a country cannot assert issues concerning its national interest, it does not have an independent foreign policy. During the Cold War, Rumania could not claim Moldova, although its population is majority Rumanian. It was a satellite state of the USSR. We are now in the same boat—a satellite state of China. By his admission, Mr. Duterte discussed the West Philippine Sea dispute with China’s Xi Jinping. In typical bully fashion, Xi told him in effect to shut up or get clobbered. The sad part is, he meekly complied. That is satellite diplomacy, not an independent foreign policy.

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Hermenegildo C. Cruz was Philippine ambassador to the United Nations in 1984-1986.

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‘Never give up honor, sovereignty and sovereign rights’

August 23, 2017

By   – @inquirerdotnet

07:24 AM August 23, 2017

(Editor’s Note: Below is the acceptance speech delivered on Aug. 19 by the Supreme Court senior associate justice on behalf of this year’s recipients of the UP Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Awards.)

On behalf of this year’s alumni awardees, I wish to thank the board of directors of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association headed by its president, Atty. Ramon Maronilla, for this signal award conferred on us.

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I am sure I speak for all of the awardees here tonight that we are truly honored and humbled by this recognition. We will certainly treasure this award.

Show honor

This year’s theme of the alumni homecoming is “Itanghal ang Dangal” — show honor.

Honor is, of course, the first half of the UP motto—“Honor and Excellence.”

The emphasis on showing honor correctly points out that honor comes before excellence, that there must be honor above all, even as there must be excellence in all that we do.

For excellence without honor is a recipe for national disaster.

A society that has an abundance of excellence but a scarcity of honor is a society in deep trouble.

Excellence without honor creates evil geniuses and develops a culture of greed — all at the expense of the common good.

That is why the university must continuously teach our students, and the alumni must ceaselessly show by example, that there must be honor above all, even as we strive for excellence in all that we do.


Honor is priceless, for once it has a price, then it can be for sale.

A nation’s sovereignty and sovereign rights are also priceless. If you put a price tag on our country’s sovereignty or sovereign rights, then another country may buy our country’s sovereignty or sovereign rights.

Our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, like our honor as UP alumni, are priceless. They are not for sale.

Our sovereign rights belong to present and future generations of Filipinos.

The duty of this present generation of Filipinos is to defend and preserve our sovereign rights, and pass on these rights to the next generation for the benefit of all succeeding generations of Filipinos.

No generation of Filipinos, and no individual Filipino, has the right to sell or waive the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. Any such sale or waiver is a betrayal of the nation.

In this battle to defend and preserve our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, we use the most powerful weapon ever invented by man, a weapon that can neutralize warships, warplanes, missiles and nuclear bombs, and that weapon is the rule of law.

Armed solely with this legal weapon, we won a great battle in July 2016 in The Hague at a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) tribunal, which awarded to the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea a vast exclusive economic zone, with an area larger than our total land area.

Next step

The next step is to enforce the award of the tribunal. This involves perseverance, steely determination, and a well-thought-out and carefully crafted long-term strategy.

I have no doubt that if we stay the course, the award of the tribunal will gradually be followed over time because the alternative is the demise of the law of the sea.

If the Unclos cannot apply in the South China Sea, then it cannot apply in the rest of the oceans and seas of the world.

Instead of the rule of law, the rule of the naval cannon will prevail in the oceans and seas.

The world community of civilized nations will not allow this to happen.

And even if we cannot immediately enforce the award because of the overwhelming might of the other side, we still acquit ourselves with respect before future generations of Filipinos because we are doing our duty with honor in accordance with the rule of law.

We would be setting a fine example to future generations of what it means to do our historic duty with honor.

Against all odds

That to me is the true meaning of “Itanghal ang dangal”—show, display and uphold honor against all odds.

Today, we face the gravest external threat to Philippine national security since World War II.

At stake is a huge maritime area rich in fishery, oil, gas and other mineral resources—either we keep this huge maritime area or we lose it to China forever.

The battle for the West Philippine Sea is the modern-day equivalent of the battles that our forebears fought, and even sacrificed their lives, to win and secure our sovereignty on land.

It is the turn of our generation to face the historic duty to defend the sovereign rights of the Filipino people in the sea.

To my fellow alumni of this great university: Never give up your honor, never give up our sovereignty, and never give up our sovereign rights!

Maraming salamat, mabuhay ang Pilipinas, mabuhay ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, mabuhay tayong lahat!

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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.

Filipino officials: Chinese navy stalked Philippine area — Philippine Government not telling all they know?

August 22, 2017
 / 08:04 PM August 22, 2017

In this Friday, April 21, 2017 photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, two Filipino security officials said China has deployed its navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them in an emerging territorial issue that the government stated was quickly resolved. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines- China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said Tuesday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors’ friendlier ties.

Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.

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The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country’s territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has in recent days refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.

A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China “is concerned that we will build” structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.

A government security report seen by the AP says Chinese navy ships with bow numbers 504, 545 and 168, a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 46115, and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay. Its nearest sandbar is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu’s southwest coast, the report said.

Philippine troops and villagers based at Thitu call it Pag-asa -Tagalog for hope – while the Chinese call the island Zhongye Dao.

The Chinese military presence near Thitu sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island’s 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters.

“In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China,” Carpio said in a statement over the weekend.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have the constitutional duty to defend and protect Philippine territory.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” Carpio said. “If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty binds the allies to come to the aid of each other when attacked.

Cayetano, however, told reporters Tuesday that the issue has been diplomatically resolved and denied that China has invaded Sandy Cay.

“Let me assure you, there is no more problem in that area,” Cayetano told reporters, declining to provide details. “But it is not true that there was an attempt to invade or seize it.”

Much-friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing under Duterte have allowed both governments to manage their disputes better. “If our relationship with our neighbors isn’t this good, the situation in the West Philippine Sea will be much, much worse,” Cayetano said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Duterte told reporters over dinner late Monday that he has been assured by China’s ambassador in Manila, Zhao Jianhua, and the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures on Sandy Cay.

“They’re not invading,” ABS-CBN TV network quoted Duterte as saying. “They are just there but they are not claiming anything.”

One of the Philippine security officials said the military has been monitoring the Chinese presence at Sandy Cay but added it was difficult to check if Beijing’s ships were still there due to bad weather in the remote offshore region.

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The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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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.

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Struggles With Question of Sovereignty, International Law Over Sandy Cay as China Watches

August 22, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with the Malacañang Press Corps at the Malago Clubhouse, Malacañang Park in Manila on August 21, 2017. PPD

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed the warning of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the Chinese are invading a sandbar near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio earlier urged the Philippine government to act on China’s “invasion” of Sandy Cay, located some 2.5 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island and well within the island’s 12-nautical mile territorial waters.

READ: Carpio: China virtually occupying Sandy Cay

The president, on the other hand, said that there is no reason to defend the sandbar as China was only patrolling the area.

“Why should I defend a sandbar and kill the Filipinos because of a sandbar?” Duterte told reporters Monday night.

Duterte added that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua assured him that Beijing will not be building facilities in the area.

Image result for sandy cay, philippines, photos
Sandy Cay

“Hindi nga na-invade eh. Hindi naman totoo iyong sinasabi ni ano — they are just there but they are not claiming anything,” Duterte said.

Carpio called on Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to protest the invasion of Philippine territory of China as it reportedly has two frigates, a coast guard vessel and two military fishing boats around Sandy Cay.

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File photo

RELATED: Photos confirm Chinese flotilla near Pag-asa

The SC justice stressed that Duterte and Cayetano both vowed to the Filipino people that they will not concede a single inch of Philippine territory to China.

Duterte, however, does not see any reason why China would occupy the sandbar near the Manila-claimed island.

“Why would they risk invading a sandbar and get into a quarrel with us? Ano ang makuha nila?” he said.

Carpio earlier explained that Sandy Cay was discussed in the final ruling of an international tribunal which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

Located between Pag-asa Island and Zamora Reef, Sandy Cay is a disappearing sandbar — appearing only for a few months before it disappears.

“Apparently, because of China’s dredging in Subi Reef, pulverized corals drifted and gathered at Sandy Cay and made it permanently above water at high-tide. As a high-tide elevation, Sandy Cay is now land or territory capable of sovereign ownership with its own territorial sea and territorial airspace,” Carpio said.

Satellite imagery released by Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last week confirmed reports that Chinese vessels had been operating near Pag-asa Island.

RELATED: Cayetano defends Chinese presence near Pag-asa

The think tank said that the presence of Chinese ships in the area may be an indication that Beijing is discouraging Manila from its planned construction on Pag-asa.

“It is important to note that ownership of the territorial waters in which these ships are operating is still legally disputed. Subi was a low-tide elevation before China built an artificial island on it,” AMTI said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray


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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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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.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Concerned About Chinese Incursions in Philippine Waters of the South China Sea

August 19, 2017
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines – The military wants to bring Chinese incursions at sandbars in the West Philippine Sea before the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We will work to clarify all of these things and there is a mechanism that is built-in in our current relationship, which is called the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, that has already been initiated before,” Padilla said.

The BCM was formed by the Philippines and China to address concerns in the disputed seas.

The first BCM was held last May in Guiyang, China – the venue chosen by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Through the BCM, both parties can raise issues surrounding the maritime claims in a bid to avoid violent confrontation between the two countries.

“It would be best to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) what happened to this mechanism because this is the proper forum to address those issues,” Padilla said.

Earlier, the DFA reported that a second meeting is forthcoming within the year where the Philippines can further bring its concerns.

Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana has said the BCM is a good venue to talk about possible areas of cooperation aimed at building mutual trust and confidence between Philippines and China.

Padilla said the AFP is in the process of looking further into the report of Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano who exposed the presence of Chinese boats in the area.

“We did receive word from the camp of Congressman Alejano regarding the presence of Chinese ships. There have been a lot of fisherman from our side who have been fishing in our waters over there,” Padilla said.

“And I think the bone of contention was regarding the presence of some of our fisherman in some of those areas because the Chinese are there also,” he said.

Alejano claimed there are two Chinese naval vessels, two fishing ships and a Chinese Coast Guard ship operating around Pag-asa Island since Aug. 12.

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He added the Chinese have a sinister plan to occupy the sandbars in the area.

Padilla however assured the public that the matter is now being addressed but he has yet to confirm the number of ships spotted in the area.

The AFP’s Western Mindanao Command has been tasked to check out the report to ensure the Filipino fisherman are “well and protected.”

“Now, we will file our ongoing and continuing protest for any of these movements, and the foreign affairs department will see to that,” Padilla added.

“We file diplomatic protest whenever we have sightings close to our areas. Especially this one,” he said.

As this developed, the US government is set to donate an unmanned radar blimp to the Philippine Navy to enhance its intelligence gathering and disaster response operations.

US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski will hand over the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) – a self-sustained, unmanned lighter-than-air systems – to Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado on Monday.

The turnover ceremony will be held at the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales.

In a statement, the US embassy said the radar is expected to enhance the Navy’s capability in maritime intelligence surveillance reconnaissance by effectively detecting maritime and air traffic within the country’s coastal waters using sensors.

It will also be utilized in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

The TARS also includes a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind, speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system. – Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude, Helen Flores

South China Sea: Why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

August 11, 2017

The South China Sea has long been a source of territorial disputes between several Asian countries. DW takes a look at who owns what, and why the contested waterway is so strategically important.

Südchinesisches Meer Spratly-Inseln (Reuters/E. de Castro)

Who is claiming territory?

China, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to the South China Sea – one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Powerhouse China has the biggest claim by far. It has demarcated an extensive area of the sea with a so-called “nine-dash line” that first appeared on Chinese maps in the late 1940s. The Paracel and Spratly Island chains, as well as dozens of rocky outcrops and reefs, fall within this area. These bits of land are highly contested, mainly because they are believed to be surrounded by large oil and gas deposits.

The Spratly Islands, for example, are claimed in full by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and in part by Malaysia and the Philippines. The Paracel chain is claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

Graphic showing Chinese claims and disputed islands in the South China Sea

These competing claimants argue that China’s self-crafted line is unlawful because it appears to extend far beyond the limits set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which gives states an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline. Although other nations can pass through, states have sole rights over all natural resources in their EEZ. They only have full sovereignty in territorial waters 12 nautical miles from their coastline.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan have carried out significant construction on the islands they claim. In recent years, China has also sought to bolster its territorial control by building on the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. Satellite images from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show that Beijing has taken significant steps to militarize the islands, equipping them with runways, ports, radar facilities, anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems.

US destroyer in the South China Sea

The United States has challenged China’s territorial claims by sailing close to disputed islands

Why is the sea important?

An escalation in the conflict over territory in the South China Sea could have global consequences, given that more than $5 trillion (4.25 trillion euros) in traded goods and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide passes through its waters each year.

The sea covers about 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 square miles) and is a main route connecting Pacific and Indian Ocean ports.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, about 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the South China Sea via the Malacca Strait. Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, as well as nearly 60 percent of energy supplies for Japan and Taiwan follow the same route.

The waters are also lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for densely populated Southeast Asia. And its floor is also believed to contain massive, mostly untapped reserves of oil and natural gas.

Graphic showing oil and gas in the South China Sea

The role of China and the US

If China secures more territorial control in the region, it could potentially disrupt shipments to other countries, as well as secure huge oil and gas reserves, thus easing its reliance on the narrow Strait of Malacca for its energy needs.

It could also potentially deny access to foreign military forces, such as the United States. The US has maintained that the South China Sea is international water, and that sovereignty in the area should be determined by the UNCLOS.

Washington has been critical of China’s island constructions, and from time to time sends military ships and planes near disputed areas as part of so-called “freedom of navigation” operations. These actions are seen as attempts to reassure allies in the region, such as the Philippines, and to ensure access to key shipping and air routes remain open.China's Liaoning aircraft carrier (imago/Xinhua)


 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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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.