Posts Tagged ‘West Philippine Sea’

Philippines Wants Joint Sea Resource Research With China — Justice Carpio Asks “Why do you want to share what’s exclusively yours?” — Phil Constitution bans “joint development”within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone

February 16, 2018

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano says the Philippines is looking to a precedent deal from 2015, actually still being challenged before the Supreme Court

Published 5:49 PM, February 16, 2018
Updated 5:49 PM, February 16, 2018
SEA DISPUTE. The Philippines and China discuss their sea dispute in the second meeting of their bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea, held in Manila on February 13, 2018. Photo courtesy of DFA

SEA DISPUTE. The Philippines and China discuss their sea dispute in the second meeting of their bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea, held in Manila on February 13, 2018. Photo courtesy of DFA

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines is “aggressively” pursuing joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with China, following a 2005 “precedent” that became controversial.

“I can tell you that we’re pursuing it aggressively because we need it. It will serve no one’s good if we do not explore and eventually develop it,” Cayetano said in a press conference Friday, February 16.

Cayetano said that, on one hand, the Philippines can pursue joint exploration alone “in the undisputed areas,” even as the country needs “technical and financial support.”

“But in the disputed areas, you know, unless we can do it by ourselves without starting a war or, worse, without a massacre, it would be prudent to do it in partnership without violating our sovereignty,” he said.

Cayetano explained that joint exploration has a “precedent” – the 2005 Joint Seismic Marine Undertaking between the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

The JMSU, however, was challenged before the Supreme Court (SC) in 2008. The case is pending with the SC.

The issue of joint exploration came up after the Philippines and China met on Tuesday, February 13, for their second bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea, where they discussed issues such as “oil and gas.” (READ: PH, China silent on artificial islands after meeting)

In his press conference on Friday, Cayetano said both the Philippines and China “want” to conduct the joint exploration, before they discuss joint development. Both sides will have working groups to study the issue.

“Then we will find a legal framework if it’s possible under the Constitution that we’ll allow a joint exploration,” Cayetano said.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said, however, that the Philippine Constitution bans “joint development”within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Carpio asked, “Why do you want to share what’s exclusively yours?” – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/196217-ph-aggressively-pursuing-joint-exploration-with-china

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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

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Harry Roque pirouettes for Duterte

February 15, 2018
The Presidential Spokesman changes his tune on at least 3 issues he championed as private lawyer – the West Philippine Sea, extrajudicial killings, and press freedom
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BY CARMELA FONBUENA | FEBRUARY 14, 2018

China seeks to name sea features in Philippine Rise — Did China Swindle The Philippines?

February 7, 2018
 
The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor. Namria graphic

MANILA, Philippines — Why is China interested in conducting research in the Philippine Rise, an area in the Western Pacific where it has no maritime territorial claim?

One possible answer, according to official sources: Beijing is seeking naming rights for seven or eight submarine mountains or seamounts and ridges in Benham or Philippine Rise and the surrounding Philippine Sea.

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The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor.

The first edition of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, based on about 20,000 soundings, came out in 1904, but the map is a work in progress. A GEBCO Digital Atlas was published in 1994.

Experts estimate that it will take 200 years to complete mapping of the planet’s entire ocean floor, so research contributions from various countries are accepted by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO.

Those who “discover” ocean features with the required supporting research get to name them.

The Chinese Navy Hydrographic Office submitted to the GEBCO Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names proposed names for undersea features including a seamount that it wants to call Jujiu in Benham Rise and other parts of the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific.

All are in the Philippine Basin and within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The IHO-IOC website, in its record of China’s undersea feature name proposals, shows one filed for a ridge in the Philippine Basin that Beijing says a Chinese vessel called Li Siguang Hao “discovered” in September 2004 following a survey from July to September of the same year.

Beijing reportedly converted the naval vessel into a fishery law enforcement ship called Yuzheng 203 sometime in 2012.

The China Navy Hydrographic Office submitted the undersea feature name proposal, together with bathymetric maps, to the IHO-IOC on April 17 last year, seeking to name the feature Shouyang Ridge.

“Shouyang,” according to the application, is “another name for Chinese lunar January, i.e. the beginning of the spring when the grim cold air gives way to the all encompassing warmth imperceptibly. The poetic and pictorial inspiring appellation, created by associating month, climate and the changes of great nature, manifests the wisdom and temperament of people living in the ancient world.”

China’s so-called nine-dash-line claim over nearly all of the South China Sea does not extend to the Pacific Ocean. The entire Chinese maritime claim was invalidated by the UN-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague in 2016.

President Duterte ordered all foreign research activities in the area stopped the other day, for still unspecified reasons. A Chinese vessel, however, has completed its research in the area.

Explaining the President’s order, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said “we simply have to regulate what is within our sovereign rights” even if “we have to share with humanity, with other nations what is in there.” Foreign groups wishing to conduct research or exploration in Philippine Rise are required to get clearance from Esperon.

He stressed the Philippines would like to assert its sovereign rights over waters within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. “It simply means that we value also what we have,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/08/1785645/china-seeks-name-sea-features-philippine-rise

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

History lessons for Duterte and Cayetano on China’s respect for Philippine waters

February 7, 2018

With 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Two decades of bilateral talks, negotiations, and deadends, starting from 1995. Then, in 2016, an overwhelming legal victory for the Philippines in an arbitration case that was novel and historic in a number of ways—but a decision that China refuses to abide by. In sum, that’s our country’s difficult relationship with the regional hegemon in resolving our dispute over parts of the South China Sea.

All these happened not so far back in our history, while President Rodrigo Duterte was Davao City mayor and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano a local politician who later became congressman and senator. Tensions with China over scattered rocks, reefs, and islands in what is now called the West Philippine Sea may have been far removed from these two men’s consciousness. But as the country’s leaders, they have a responsibility to protect the national interest, with history as their guide.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Sure, Benham Rise is not disputed territory. The 13-million-hectare area off the coasts of the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, larger than Luzon, is unambiguously part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, as declared by the United Nations in 2012.

But letting China conduct maritime research there, while allowing it to ignore our country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and militarily dominate the area, is deplorable. It is Stockholm Syndrome at its fullest: the more the Philippines is abused, the more it gives in to China.

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China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, shows Chinese military construction

To refresh the memories of our leaders, here’s a short timeline:

  • 1988 – China occupied Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef), Cuarteron Reef (Calderon Reef), and Subi Reef (Zamora Reef). Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef have been transformed into military bases, while a high-frequency radar installation was built on Cuarteron Reef.
  • 1995 – China grabbed Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) and built certain structures which, they said, were shelters for their fishermen. Look how Mischief Reef is today: it is a military base complete with underground storage for ammunition.
  • 2004-2005 – The Philippines and China entered into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) to do a 3-year research of petroleum resources in parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam protested this controversial deal so it became a trilateral agreement. China, which used its ship, collected the data, and Vietnam supposedly processed it, and the Philippines interpreted it. The survey results, some of which were blurred, have remained confidential. China, it is said, controlled the process. A case questioning the constitutionality of the JMSU is pending with the Supreme Court.
  • 2011 – China stopped the Philippines from exploring for oil and gas in Reed Bank.
  • 2012 – China took control of Scarborough Shoal.
  • 2013-2014 – China attempted to prevent Philippine ships from delivering supplies to and rotating personnel in Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines as of February 2018

Sneaking into Benham Rise

Recently, in another part of the Philippines, a Chinese survey vessel hovered in Benham Rise for 3 months, a fact Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed last year. The DFA, then under Secretary Enrique Manalo, said China had not been issued any permit to research. Why then was China there and what was it doing?

Despite this breach, which happened on Duterte’s watch, Cayetano has blithely given the go signal to China to survey the country’s coral-rich eastern seaboard. The DFA, however, has not released details of the permit given to the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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The approval process was likewise not transparent. Usually, it is a multi-agency team – including the DFA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture (particularly the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) – that reviews research requests such as this.

Damage to coral reefs

Forgotten is this race to study Benham Rise is China’s plunder of the coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea and the massive damage it has done to the marine biodiversity of the area. The construction of artificial islands in features that China had occupied, turning these into fortified military bases, had impacted reefs on a “scale unprecedented in the region” and which will take decades to centuries to recover.

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The international tribunal that heard the Philippine maritime case versus China ruled overwhelmingly against China on environmental issues. Among others, the judges said China engaged in – and tolerated – the harvesting of endangered species on a significant scale and in a manner that was destructive of the coral reefs. Its land reclamation has caused irreparable harm to the environment. Studies by experts proved this.

While China’s intentions in Benham Rise, as the scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) explain, has everything to do with ocean currents and understanding climate change, there is concern that China will collect information on the marine wealth and eventually use it to exploit the area, just like it did in the West Philippine Sea.

Filipino scientists from UP-MSI are reportedly on board China’s ship, Ke Xue Hao, to participate in the research, a requirement for any foreign country doing marine scientific research in Philippine waters. Their presence may serve as check on the Chinese.

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Chinese Ocean Research Ship

But with 20 years of experience dealing with China behind us, the Philippines should not let its guard down. This is not just about science. It is also about trust. – Rappler.com

The author, editor at large of Rappler, is writing a book on how the Philippines won its maritime case versus China.

https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/195289-benham-rise-history-lessons-duterte-cayetano

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5360751/Chinas-militarisation-South-China-Sea-revealed.html

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

Philippine Government ‘Accomplice’ in China’s Military Expansion

February 7, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte and his government may be becoming an ‘accomplice’ in China’s plan to extend its economic and military reach by giving Beijing preferential treatment in research activities in the Philippine Rise, says Sen. Leila De Lima. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila De Lima on Wednesday urged the Senate to probe China’s research in Benham Rise as she warned that the Philippine government’s preferential treatment of Beijing was making it a possible accomplice in the Chinese plan to extend its military and economic reach.

The senator stressed the need for the government to limit, if not prevent, Chinese access to the country’s territorial waters as this could expose strategic information that would endanger Manila’s national security.

“Circumstances surrounding Chinese activities in Philippine waters show that China’s interest over strategic areas within Philippine territory present a danger [to] our national interest, including our national security, economic and environmental interests, territorial integrity and sovereignty,” De Lima said.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution 604 which aimed to look into supposed “undue preference” given to China to explore the undersea region, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte barred foreign explorations in the region which came two days after Chinese vessels left the area.

Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino meanwhile urged the administration of Duterte to establish a consistent policy position on territorial and foreign policy issues.

He called on the government to be transparent about its dealings and agreements with other countries that may have repercussions on the country’s territory.

“We need full transparency in all our deals with other countries,” he said, stressing that the issue was too important for the government to be nonchalant.

On Tuesday, he called on the president to determine the country’s policies and programs for Benham Rise, also called the Philippine Rise, and welcomed Duterte’s cessation of foreign studies in the area.

However, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) revealed that Duterte’s stoppage order came two days after Chinese vessels left the area, an indication that they were done with their research.

De Lima said that Chinese access to waters off the country’s eastern seaboard would give Beijing military and scientific advantage by giving them information and access to areas including the Western Pacific Ocean Region.

“Continued tolerance by our government of Chinese incursions over our territorial waters makes our government an accomplice, wittingly or unwittingly, to the Chinese plan of expanding their military and economic reach well beyond their territory,” she said.

READ: Philippines conducting Benham Rise research without China

In her resolution, De Lima stated that China might just be looking for opportunities in the Pacific by increasing its submarine operations, citing former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez who said that the Chinese might just be looking for a thin layer of water called thermocline where their underwater assets could freely operate.

She said that this was in consonance to the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who said last year that China might be looking for “a place to put submarines” when he ordered the Philippine Navy to shoo China’s vessels away.

De Lima also stressed doubt on China’s compliance with the country’s regulations in the Philippine Rise as it had already shown “bad faith” by conducting research prior to Manila’s approval.

Sen. Ralph Recto meanwhile called on the government to explore the Philippine Rise as a possible source of the country’s food and energy needs.

“With the West Philippine Sea effectively fenced off, we have to look to the ‘east Philippine seas’ for our food and fuel,” he said.

READ: ‘Probe Benham Rise research deal’

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/07/1785540/de-lima-duterte-govt-becoming-accomplice-china-military-expansion

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

Philippines government on China buildup on PH reef: What do you want us to do? — Malacañang portrays itself as helpless in the face of China — Not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.” — Really? — Something is fishy…

February 5, 2018

(UPDATED) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque again downplays continued militarization by China of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea

Published 3:05 PM, February 05, 2018
Updated 3:39 PM, February 05, 2018

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

DUTERTE AND CHINA. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour inside the Chinese Navy vessel Chang Chun where he was able to see the armaments, the deck, the bridge navigation system, and operations room command and control system. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang, on Monday, February 5, portrayed itself as helpless in the face of China’s continued construction on Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), a reef that belongs to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do they want us to do?” asked Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a Palace news briefing.

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 Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

He was asked what the Philippine government intends to do about the new structures built by China on the reef located in the Spratlys which the Permanent Court of Arbitration, through a landmark ruling, affirmed belongs to the Philippines.

Photos show the reclaimed reef now has a concrete runway, two radomes for radar equipment, two hangars, and a control tower.

Roque said the reclamation of the reefs in the Spratlys began during the administration of Benigno Aquino III and that the government had already known then of China’s plan to build military structures on them.

“I think whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases. So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” said President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.

Asked if the Philippines intends to file a diplomatic protest against China, Roque was evasive.

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China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, shows Chinese military construction

“In the first place, it did not happen overnight. I think the previous administration must have filed also a protest, when it became apparent that they were going to be used as military bases,” he said.

Roque insisted that the only red flag for Malacañang is if China creates more artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

This despite Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying a month ago that even just military buildup on existing artificial islands is a violation of China’s promise.

“I know for a fact that the Chinese government said some time ago that they are not going to militarize those reclaimed islands,” said Lorenzana last January 8.

If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and weapons, then it will be a violation of what they said,” he added.

Asked to explain the discrepancy between his remarks and that of the defense chief, Roque said he can only speak for Duterte and not for other Cabinet members.

Options outside of war

This is the second time Roque has downplayed new Chinese construction in the West Philippine Sea. In early January, he also said the transformation of Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) into a Chinese air base was not a violation of China’s “good faith commitment.”

During the Monday briefing, Roque wondered out loud what else the Duterte administration could do in the face of China’s continued construction on reclaimed reefs. He even asked reporters present for suggestions since declaring war against China is “impossible.”

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had previously outlined 5 steps the Duterte administration could take to deter China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea without going to war.

One of these steps is to file a diplomatic protest. Another is to send the Philippine Navy to patrol features in the EEZ.

Carpio also said the Philippines could ask for the assistance of the United States, possibly in the form of joint naval patrols. He also advised the government to avoid any act or statement that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Why Justice Carpio wants China to read his e-book)

Asked about Carpio’s criticism of the Duterte administration’s decision to trust China’s word on its activities in the West Philippine Sea, Roque said it would be better for Carpio to write a relevant court decision or to run for a post in government.

“He could run [for] an elective, legislative position if he wants to make policy for government,” said Roque. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/195287-malacanang-china-buildup-mischief-reef-west-philippine-sea

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

Philippines and the South China Sea: ‘Well-intentioned but naive’

February 4, 2018

US-based analyst Gregory Poling explains why he views the Duterte administration’s West Philippine Sea policy as

By
Rappler
February 04, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to Gregory Poling, one of the world’s leading experts on the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, as he makes a two-day trip to the Philippines for a series of talks and meetings.

Poling is the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington DC. AMTI is the group that regularly publishes satellite images of the South China Sea.

In this Rappler Talk interview, Poling explains why he views the Duterte administration’s policy on the West Philippine Sea as “well-intentioned but naive.”

Watch the full Rappler Talk interview here. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/195096-rappler-talk-csis-gregory-poling-west-philippine-sea-south-china-sea

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

Philippines President Duterte’s push for joint exploration in the South China Sea — Trading Philippine territory and sovereignty for Chinese investment? — Revising the constitution has a role…

February 1, 2018
31 Jan 2018|

From being a frontrunner in pressing China on the South China Sea disputes, the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking closer relations with China. In his state of the nation address in July last year, Duterte announced that he wants to begin a joint exploration venture with China in the South China Sea, in the area that Philippine government agencies refer to as the ‘West Philippine Sea’. The Chinese hailed the initiative as ‘full of political wisdom’.

A joint development project seems to serve both sides. Duterte may be engaging in conflict management and preventive diplomacy to ease regional geopolitical tensions and avoid confrontation with China. And he may be pursuing economic diplomacy to address the Philippines’ growing demand for energy security. The Malampaya gas field, for example, which supplies one-third of Luzon’s energy demand, will be depleted within a decade.

For China, a joint project would conform to its use of ‘neighborhood diplomacy’ (周边外交) to maintain a stable periphery. After all, Beijing’s professed stance on the South China Sea has always been about ‘shelving differences and seeking joint development’ (搁置争议, 共同开发). Working with the Philippines would also allow China to demonstrate the efficacy of bilateral arrangements while giving it access to new sources of energy.

But the situation is more complicated than it first appears. The joint exploration project involves both ‘disputed’ waters—waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but claimed by China based on its nine-dash line—and ‘undisputed’ waters that fall entirely within the Philippines’ territory or jurisdiction.

Take the disputed waters first. The Philippines has tried cooperation with China in disputed areas before. Former president Gloria Arroyo signed a joint marine seismic undertaking with China and Vietnam for the period 2005–2008 covering waters claimed by all three countries. And in a unilateral exploration attempt, Manila issued a concession for Reed Bank, located west-northwest of Palawan Island, but it met strong diplomatic and physical resistance from China. No work was completed and Reed Bank remains unexploited.

Technically, the Philippines could develop the West Philippine Sea on its own. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague ruled that China’s nine-dash line and associated claims of historic rights run counter to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It also ruled that none of the geological features (let alone artificial islands) in the South China Sea count as islands, which means they can’t be used to determine maritime economic zones. However, China doesn’t recognise the PCA’s ruling and has the hard power to enforce its claims. If the Philippines were to unilaterally recommence exploration of the disputed waters, it would certainly encounter stern opposition from China once again.

Joint exploration in undisputed waters could be more straightforward. In 2006, for instance, the Chinese national offshore oil company signed a commercial agreement with the Philippine national oil company’s exploration arm to explore the Calamian area, which lies north-northwest of Palawan Island. However, that project was put on hold in 2008. Duterte could revive it as one of the first joint venture projects with China.

It seems unlikely, though, that Beijing would accept using a joint venture model in the disputed waters because that could be tantamount to accepting the PCA ruling. Moreover, the Philippine constitution, through a presidential decree, stipulates that Filipinos should benefit more than foreign partners and that the government should receive 60% of net profits in joint venture projects involving Philippine petroleum resources. China would probably baulk at such an inequitable distribution.

There are also fears in the Philippines that if Manila proceeds with the joint project in disputed waters, that may be construed as implicitly validating China’s claims in the area and abandoning the PCA’s judgement. But if the Philippines doesn’t proceed, the hydrocarbon deposits will remain untapped. Manila doesn’t have enough technological capability to develop deep-sea energy resources on its own.

Pushing through with the joint development in disputed waters also entails political risks for Duterte. The Philippines’ credibility with its international allies and partners may diminish if it seems to undercut the PCA ruling. Nationalist groups will perceive any compromise that circumvents the ruling or the constitution as cowardice or treason. When Arroyo signed the joint exploration deal with China and Vietnam, she was accused of selling out the country, trading Philippine territory and sovereignty for Chinese investment.

Despite these difficulties, Duterte’s quest for cooperative relations with China in the South China Sea isn’t at a dead-end. There’s talk in the Philippines of revising the constitution to amend the provisions that limit foreign investment and ownership. If that happens, there could be greater legal flexibility in offering a 50–50 sharing of profits. And a joint venture in undisputed waters could be a confidence-builder that leads to better management of other aspects of maritime security in the disputed waters.

This post was adapted from the author’s presentation at the 4th ASEAN–EU High-Level Dialogue on Maritime Security Cooperation held in Manila last year.

China exploration of Benham Rise: Trust, but verify — Philippines assisting China in future submarine war? –Could the “China Dream” become a Philippine Nightmare?

February 1, 2018
Technical divers went down to a maximum depth of 63 meters, with a bottom time of 30 minutes during the 2016 Benham Rise expedition. Oceana

“Trust, but verify.” This was one of the most poignant quotes from former American president Ronald Reagan, specifically in the context of geopolitics. Ironically, it was originally a Russian proverb, which the American president deftly deployed to deal with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Those were, however, more than just wise words, but instead a valuable strategic dictum, which served as the foundation of Reagan’s years-long chess-like negotiations with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev.

Reagan believed in cooperation and confidence-building measures with even the most bitter and existential rivals – but, crucially, from a position of strength and with eyes wide-open. In many ways, the Philippines faces a similar dilemma vis-à-vis China, particularly in the South China Sea and over the past year or so in the Benham Rise.

Most Filipinos are somehow familiar with the nature of the disputes in the South China Sea and more specifically, the West Philippine Sea, which pertains to areas that fall within our Exclusive Economic Zone in the area.

Yet, it behooves us to understand what is at stake in the Behnam Rise, which falls in the Western Pacific and within the Philippine Sea. We have to keep in mind that what we are talking about here is neither an island, rock nor a low-tide elevation similar to the land features we claim and occupy in the South China Sea, but instead a volcanic ridge, which is part of our extended continental shelf.

Thus, in the Benham Rise we do have “sovereign rights”— rather than “sovereignty,” since we’re not talking about a full-fledged island or land formation — based on Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which makes it clear that a coastal state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of “exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.”

Crucially, those rights are “exclusive,” meaning other states can only do so with our express permission. The distinction between “sovereign rights” and “sovereignty” is not a major categorical difference. They are both manifestations of exclusive rights of a coastal state along a broad spectrum of jurisdictional regime.

Yes, we can’t claim the whole body of water above the ridge as our “territory” per se, but we have full and exclusive sovereign rights over “mineral and other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil together with living organisms belonging to sedentary species” in the area. This was affirmed by a 2012 United Nations ruling, which, per UNCLOS Art. 76 no. 8, is “final” and “binding” on all signatories to the Convention.

Other states are certainly correct to emphasize their rights to freedom of navigation (FON) and overflight (FOO) in the area per UNCLOS, but that’s very rich when it comes from a country like China, which rejects an UNCLOS-based arbitration ruling as a “piece of trash paper” and claims the whole South China Sea as its own “blue nation soil” — not to mention impedes FON and FOO through massive reclamation and militarization in the Spratlys and Paracels.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with allowing other countries to conduct Maritime Scientific Research (MSR) in the Benham Rise so long as they meet our qualification criteria. And we should indeed cooperate with neighboring states such as China for confidence-building purposes as well as absolute gains of cooperation with better-endowed nations. Flatly rejecting any form of scientific cooperation with China is shortsighted.

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Chinese ocean research ship Ke Xue

Much has been said about the Philippines’ collaboration with institutions from the United States, Japan and other countries in the Benham Rise, which is rich in seabed resources, but any MSR agreement with a country like China stands out precisely because of the fact that the emerging superpower has a long-term strategy of dominating its adjacent waters.

Under its own version of the so-called “Island Chain Strategy,” China seeks naval dominance in both the East and South China Seas, part of the so-called “first island chain,” as well as the Western Pacific, specifically parts of the so-called “second island chain.”

In China’s view, the best way to defend itself from external threats, particularly the U.S., is through domination of adjacent waters – creating a maritime buffer zone as a perimeter of defense, especially for its own burgeoning maritime interests and naval capabilities, including state-of-the-art submarine bases in Hainan.

Year after year, Chinese applications for MSR in the Benham Rise have been rejected, precisely because they have refused to even accommodate, per our requirements, a single Filipino scientist to do onboard monitoring during their research. We simply don’t know the exact nature of their reported presence in the area in recent years.

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This year, they have reportedly fulfilled our requirements (though it seems not in the case of a far more reputable French institution). The MSR between Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, its local partner, is supposed to focus on studying climate-driving ocean currents. This looks all fine and innocuous, if not commendable.

But the question remains: What is the ultimate goal of China? Many defense experts fear that MSRs are just a convenient cover for more robust security goals, namely monitoring of American naval assets in the area through placement of sensors and other surveillance equipment.  We will never know for sure what are China’s intentions, but it’s important for us to cooperate yet with eyes wide open. As Reagan put it, trust but verify.

RELATED: China: Philippines can’t claim Benham Rise | China: We respect Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise

Related video:

http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2018/02/01/1783535/china-exploration-benham-rise-trust-verify

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the 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.

Philippines Finds Previously Unknown Increased Chinese Presence at Scarborough Shoal — At Least Nine Chinese Vessels Inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone

January 31, 2018

 

The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.  File

MANILA, Philippines — On its maiden patrol mission in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a Philippine Navy aircraft donated by Japan has monitored increased presence of Chinese vessels in the area now under China’s control despite being within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The air patrol mission of the Navy’s King Air surveillance C90 aircraft was its first since its delivery and commissioning late last year.

It was the second such mission to be launched within a two-week period at Panatag Shoal by the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) amid growing concerns over Chinese military buildup in the West Philippine Sea.

Wielding de facto control over Panatag, the Chinese might build an island on the shoal just like it did on other land features in the disputed waters so that it could strengthen its hold on a seized territory, security experts say.

Flying 800 feet above the rich fishing ground, the Navy surveillance plane reported the presence of nine Chinese vessels – four coast guard vessels, four unmarked Chinese ships and a Chinese fishing vessel.

Last week, a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C295 plane also circled over Panatag and spotted four Chinese coast guard ships and a fishing vessel in the area. Filipino fishing boasts were also present.

The Chinese ships in Panatag did not challenge the Filipino patrols.

Located 120 nautical miles from mainland Zambales, Panatag Shoal used to be a target range for live fire exercise of the US and Philippine militaries in 1970s to 1980s.

The dismantling of the US bases in the country in the early ‘90s, observers say, may have given China opportunity to assert its South China Sea nine-dash line maritime claim, initially by establishing its presence in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan in 1995.

Meanwhile, a Japanese destroyer is set to arrive in Manila tomorrow for a three-day goodwill visit. The destroyer JS AMAGIRI (DD-154), which has a DH-60J patrol helicopter, will dock at Pier 13 in South Harbor.

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JS Amagiri

The visit is part of the continuing initiatives of the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to further improve relations.

In November 2017, an anti-submarine destroyer of the JMSDF also made a goodwill port call in Manila.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/01/1783462/increased-chinese-presence-monitored-scarborough-shoal

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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.