Posts Tagged ‘West Philippine Sea’

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

March 26, 2017

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

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

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

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

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

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

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

National Geographic:

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

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

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

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

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

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

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Chinese moving to dominate the South China Sea — An emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

March 26, 2017

A sea in peril

While rival claimants jockey for strategic position in the South China Sea, an emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

MARCH 25, 2017

China will soon host a dialogue with Southeast Asian nations aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea. But it’s not clear whether the talks will help to save a marine environment that in parts is facing collapse.

While diplomats discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for rival claimants in the vast waterway, scientists say that the region’s marine environment also deserves attention, partly because overfishing on all sides is depleting fish stocks.

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing.

Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

Fishermen unload baskets of fish as they dock their boats at a port under the alert of Typhoon Kalmaegi, in Sanya, Hainan province September 14, 2014. China's marine forecast station issued a yellow alert as typhoon Kalmaegi is expected to enter the South China Sea on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR464V0

Overfished: Fishermen unload their catch in Hainan province, China. Photo: Reuters

According to The Nature Conservancy, overfishing is a common problem around the world. Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Conservancy, explains that “when too few individual fish of breeding age remain, they simply don’t produce well …”

It is what she describes as “a lose-lose situation for both fishermen and conservationists.” The stakes are particularly high in the case of the South China Sea.

High stakes

Occupying more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is one of the world’s five leading fishing zones, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The fishery employs more than 3 million people, contributes heavily to the global fish trade and provides a major source of vital protein to millions of people living in the nations that depend on it.

In addition, experts believe that huge reserves of oil and gas lie unexploited beneath the disputed waters.

Fishing boats are seen anchored in a bay as Typhoon Chan-Hom approaches southern China, in Wenling, Zhejiang province, July 8, 2015. Chinese authorities have suspended train services, closed schools and bought trawlers back to port before two typhoons in the south and east of the country make landfall later this week, state media said. Picture taken July 8, 2015. REUTERS/William Hong CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX1JNFJ

Seafaring: Chinese fishing boats anchored in the bay. Photo: Reuters/William Hong

US Air Force Captain Adam Greer, who has done research partly funded by the National Defense University, says that the stakes in the South China Sea can be summed up by a “3 P’s rule”—politics, petroleum, and protein.

In an article published in The Diplomat, Greer argues that the protein derived from fish may be the most important factor driving competition in the South China Sea.

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The best news for the environment, one leading American scientist says, was a Chinese decision early this year to enforce regulations calling for a halt to the harvesting and processing by Chinese fishermen of giant clams in the South China Sea.

John McManus, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, said that the decision, announced by China’s southern Hainan province, could mark a major step toward helping to preserve and restore a vital part of the marine environment.

The giant clams are embedded in coral reefs that protect small fish from predators. The coral reefs also play a role in replenishing fish stocks.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

According to McManus, Chinese poachers using boat propellers to dig up reefs and uncover the clams have caused widespread damage to many of the reefs. Chinese dredging aimed at gathering sand and gravel to build artificial islands has caused further serious damage.

The highly valued shells of the clams have been carved much like elephant ivory into intricate ornaments for sale to Chinese tourists visiting Hainan Island. Some Chinese regard the meat from the clams as a rare delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the biggest factor in reducing the giant clam shell trade may be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“As the crackdown on corruption has spread, people are understandably hesitant to accept jewelry or statues made from poached giant clams,” Poling said.

Products made from giant clam shells are displayed inside a store in the seaside town of Tanmen in China's Hainan province May 10, 2016. Picture taken May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Farah Master - RTX2IKU7

Shiny wears: Products made from giant clam shells at Tanmen town in China’s Hainan province. Photo: Reuters/Farah Master

Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, says that it appears the crackdown on the giant clam trade has been “very decisive, at least as of now.”

The local government on Hainan Island, he says, also intends to promote “fishing tourism” as an alternative source of income for the local fishermen.

But Zhang says that he sees some evidence that the price for giant clams is rising, which could lead to an underground trade that spurs illegal harvesting.

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Coral rubble remains after Chinese “chopper” boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by  blast fishing.  John McManus/Rosenstiel School, University of Miami

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Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

The various nations involved in the South China Sea, including China, have laws aimed at preserving the marine environment. But the problem so far has been a lack of implementation.

Talks bring hope

China’s recent negotiations with Vietnam have offered another source of hope. During a recent visit to Beijing, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary, signed 15 agreements dealing, among other things, with economic cooperation, defense relations and tourism.

But another development points to potential conflict.

Satellite photos taken by the firm Planet Labs on March 6 show the clearing of land by China for possible new construction in the disputed Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam claim the Paracels as their territory.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo taken May 2016. U.S. Navy/Handout

Chinese dredging vessels in the South China Sea in 2016. Photo: US Navy/handout

Last month China’s agriculture ministry announced a fishing ban, including over a number of areas claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea, that would last from May 1 to August 16. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry strongly objected to the ban, which it described as “unilateral.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the same time, on the diplomatic front, China claims to be drafting a new code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although some experts doubt that diplomats can complete it as promised by the end of this year.

A non-binding code of conduct resolution signed by China and ASEAN in 2002 included brief mention of cooperative “marine environmental protection,” contingent on a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes.

South China Sea disputed islands

Marine biology expert McManus says that effectively managing the marine environment will require peaceful relations among the nations whose fishermen, and the Coast Guards backing them, have clashed frequently in recent years.

McManus proposes that a “marine peace park” be established in the Spratly Islands and that a freeze on territorial claims be imposed as part of an agreement. But satellite images showing the clearing of land on North Island in the Paracels group makes a freeze seem unlikely any time soon.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water. AFP/getty images

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describes the Paracels as “vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea.” But as long as the territorial disputes drag on, the maritime area’s environment will likely continue to pay a high cost.

Dan Southerland is the former executive editor of Radio Free Asia

 

Related:

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

National Geographic:

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

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

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

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

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

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

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Philippines: “Stand Up To China,” Some Allies of President Duterte Urge Him To Change Course Before It Is Too Late

March 23, 2017
ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2017 03:25 AM

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President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA — A senator and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte is asking him to rethink his “hands-off” approach in dealing with the South China Sea.

Duterte has drawn criticism for his response to the alleged Chinese encroachment on Benham Rise and reports that Beijing is also planning to build a station in Scarborough Shoal.

Reacting to reports that China plans to build a monitoring station in Scarborough, Duterte recently said that the Philippines cannot do anything to stop China from altering the disputed shoal, located some 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

China has since denied the report.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Duterte’s approach on the issue is wrong and the president must stand up to China.

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A Vietnamese Coast Guard captain speaks to other ships as a Chinese Coast Guard vessel cuts across its path to prevent access to an oil rig situated west of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. | BLOOMBERG

“It is incorrect to say that there is nothing we can do to stop China. We still have several legal and diplomatic options, all of which must be exhausted in defending Philippine territory from foreign aggression,” Gatchalian said.

“The Philippines should never allow itself to be bullied by anyone, no matter how big and powerful that bully might be.”

Gatchalian said Duterte must also invoke the Philippines’ legal victory against China should Beijing step up its aggression in the South China Sea.

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A Filipino fishing vessel ventures into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. —REM ZAMORA

Last July, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s so-called nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea. It also said, Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the countries surrounding it and China may be violating the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking access to it.

“The favorable decision in the Philippines vs. China case is a potent tool we can use to enforce our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. It is our duty to invoke this ruling and take action before international legal institutions to contest any further acts of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian said.

Philippines Prepares Protest vs China Over South China Sea Island Grab

March 21, 2017
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is preparing to formally protest China’s plan to install a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in violation of a ruling by a United Nations-backed international tribunal declaring the shoal a common fishing ground outside any country’s jurisdiction.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

“I think so, there will be (a protest to be filed). Medyo malakas-lakas ang ifa-file (A stronger one will be filed),” Aguirre said when asked about the issue in a chance interview.

Aguirre’s statement came on the heels of President Duterte’s voicing helplessness against China’s continued buildup of its forces in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

But Aguirre assured the public that Duterte is committed to protect and defend the nation’s sovereignty despite the latter’s pronouncement that he could not stop China from building a structure at the shoal. “Definitely, he will not let go of (Panatag shoal),” Aguirre stressed.

“As a matter of fact, we are strengthening the relationship with the US,” Aguirre pointed out, indicating a potential shift from Duterte’s earlier declaration of separation from the US and a pivot to China.

The filing of a protest was among the five-point strategy suggested by Carpio for dealing with China’s reported plan to set up facilities at Panatag shoal.

The SC justice has also suggested sending Philippine Navy vessels to the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he pointed out.

Carpio also stressed the government may ask the US to declare the shoal part of Philippine territory and accept the superpower’s offer to hold joint patrols in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

The SC magistrate also advised Duterte to “avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio stressed that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 (Philippine Baselines Law) and that President Duterte has the constitutional duty to defend it from China’s incursion.

He earlier warned that the installation of a radar system at the Panatag shoal will complete China’s air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.

In 2012, the Chinese seized the Panatag Shoal after a tense standoff with Philippine Navy personnel who had tried to arrest Chinese poachers in the area. The poachers were allowed to return to China with their illegal harvest of baby sharks, endangered corals and giant clams. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.

A ruling in July last year by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague upheld the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea but declared Panatag a common fishing ground. The shoal is only about 230 kilometers from the nearest coast in Luzon and close to 2,700 kilometers from China’s nearest coast in Hainan.

Defending sovereignty

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made it clear Duterte has not surrendered the country’s sovereignty over Panatag Shoal or any other area within the country’s EEZ either seized or being coveted by China.

“He has said time and again that he will defend and protect the interests of the Filipino people and will take necessary action at a time most fitting and advantageous to us,” Abella said.

“Furthermore, PRRD has repeatedly asserted that RP is not giving up its claims and our entitlements over the area,” Abella said, referring to Duterte by his presidential initials.

He noted even China has not issued an official stand on reports it was preparing to build a radar station at Panatag Shoal. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), he said, is verifying such reports.

“The DFA is in the process of verifying alleged announcements of proposals to build structures in WPS (West Philippine Sea), since these statements do not reflect the official position of China,” he said.

Duterte earlier declared that the Philippines – with its weak armed forces – cannot stop Beijing from building a radar station at Panatag Shoal.

This prompted Carpio to remind Duterte of his constitutional duty to defend the country from Chinese incursion.

Panatag is part of the national territory, Carpio pointed out, as stipulated under the Philippine Baselines Law.

In his speech in Myanmar Monday, Duterte again ruled out invoking the UN arbitration ruling when dealing with Beijing. But he also vowed to raise the matter if and when China starts extracting mineral resources like oil or uranium in disputed areas.

“Now, if China starts getting oil or uranium or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, I will do something and tell them, ‘We own it. You claim it by historical right, by judgment I won and it’s mine,’” he said.

Duterte also stressed he would not send forces to confront the Chinese in disputed areas to avoid bloodshed.

“First hour, they are finished already. We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte added.

Not defenseless

Meanwhile, the lawmaker who filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte has asked the President not to portray the country as defenseless against China’s maritime incursion.

“His statement that we cannot do anything is not true. In fact, we have a lot of non-military and non-confrontational options. He just doesn’t want to do them,” Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo said.

During the campaign, then candidate Duterte said if the Chinese intruded into Panatag, he would rush there in a jet ski to confront the intruders.

Alejano has described as “treason” the President’s admission that he had allowed a Chinese research ship to survey Benham Rise, which is part of the country’s territory.

He said Duterte’s statement on China’s building plan at Panatag Shoal “is a defeatist narrative fitting squarely to what China wants us to feel.”

The lawmaker advised the President to listen to Carpio and revisit various recommendations proposed in the past by national leaders and security officials to address Chinese intrusions into Philippine waters.

“He can consult his national security team and other leaders,” he added.

Alejano lamented the Duterte administration is speaking with discordant voices in dealing with China.

He noted that while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has denounced the presence of China’s research ship in Benham Rise, the President admitted he had allowed it without informing his defense chief.

Alejano urged the President to send the Coast Guard or even the Navy to patrol the Panatag Shoal area.

“The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Luzon, while it is 2,659 kilometers away from the Chinese mainland. Logistically, the replenishing of supplies such as food and fuel will be a challenge for China, not so for our troops since it is closer to our shores,” he said.

“We can strategically deploy and train our fishermen to utilize the natural resources in the area. We could provide them with study vessels and advanced communication system so that we could aid or defend them should they be threatened by Chinese ships,” he said.

He said Duterte should learn a lesson or two from Vietnam in protecting the country’s interest.

Alejano recalled that in one confrontation with China near the disputed Paracels, Vietnam lost several troops.

The former Marine captain said the country could also invoke its security alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.

In case of a shooting war, he said he would be “more than willing to fight for our country.”

The military, for its part, said it is ready to deploy a navy ship – recently acquired from the US – to conduct oceanographic survey of Benham Rise.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said they are just awaiting a written order from Lorenzana or from the President for the deployment of BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) to Benham Rise.

“We have one survey vessel and the Philippine Navy has the capability to do maritime research, but so far we don’t have the instructions,” Arevalo said. The other survey vessel acquired from the US was BRP Andres Bonifacio.  – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/22/1683442/philippines-prepares-protest-vs-china-over-panatag

Related:

 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

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

Rodrigo Duterte And Kim Jong-un Save Peace In South China Sea, But For How Much Longer?

March 21, 2017

I cover global markets, business and investment strategy

Duterte said. Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s flip-flops and North Korea’s leader Kim Jongun’s missile tests have saved South China Sea peace, for now, as both major players in the disputes China and the US have been softening their tone lately.

That’s good news for investors in the equities of the region, as it lowers geopolitical risks. And that may sound paradoxical to some. How is it that Duterte’s flip-flops and Kim Jong-un’s missile firings can advance peace in South China Sea?

By changing the parameters of the game for China and the US.

ETF/Fund 3-month Performance (%) 12-month Performance (%)
iShares MSCI iShares China  (FXI) 4.58 17.64
VanEck Vectors Vietnam ETF (VNM) 9.34 -2.81
iShares MSCI Philippines (EPHE) -7.28 -5.14
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets 14.08 17.47

Source: Finance.yahoo.com  3/20/2017

Last July Philippines and its close ally, the U.S., won an international arbitration ruling that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea. Yet Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte shocked the global community and financial markets by siding with China on the dispute, and seeking a “divorce” from the U.S. Duterte’s flip-flop left the US without a key ally to advance its cause in South China Sea, and therefore, no choice but to soften its tone.

Never mind that China continues its activities around the Scarborough Shoal. “So what do you want me to do? Declare war against China?” Duterte quoted in Chinatopix asking reporters. “I can but we’ll lose all our military and policemen tomorrow, and we are a destroyed nation. And we cannot assert even a single sentence of any provision that we signed.”  

Then came Kim Jongun’s missile tests to change America’s foreign policy priorities placing the Korean Peninsula and the containment of North Korea ahead of South China Sea; and China can make the difference as to whether America achieves this objective. This means that Washington must appease rather than antagonize Beijing at this point.

While Duterte’s flip flops and Kim Jongun’s missile tests have saved peace for the time being, it’s hard to see how they will save peace in the future, as both leaders are unpredictable.  

That’s why investors should constantly keep an eye on the geopolitical risks in the South China Sea region markets.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2017/03/20/rodrigo-duterte-and-kim-jong-un-save-peace-in-south-china-sea-for-now/#7dce8fbefe32

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Philippines: Supreme Court Judge says the President is constitutionally mandated to defend the national territory — As China lurks in the West Philippine Sea

March 20, 2017
By: – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 12:20 AM March 21, 2017
Supreme court Snr. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Supreme court Snr. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (CDN FILE PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

President Duterte should file a strong protest to block China’s plan to build on Panatag Shoal, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Monday.

Carpio, a member of the legal team that successfully argued the Philippines’ challenge to China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, offered an unsolicited advice to Mr. Duterte after the President said he could not stop Beijing from building permanent structures on Panatag Shoal.

Carpio said the President had at least five options in dealing with China’s provocative actions and incursions into Philippine territory in the South China Sea.

As Commander in Chief of the military, the President is constitutionally mandated to defend the national territory, Carpio said.

“Under RA (Republic Act) No. 9522, Scarborough Shoal is part of [the] Philippine national territory,” he said, referring to the law enacted by Congress in 2008 that established the country’s archipelagic baseline.

The same law declared Panatag Shoal and the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the Spratlys group parts of the Philippines’ territory as defined under Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Panatag Shoal, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, is a rich fishing ground located 230 kilometers west of the coast of Zambales province, well within the 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines known as the West Philippine Sea.

Monitoring station

Xiao Jie, the top Communist Party official in Sansha City that has administered China’s South China Sea claims since 2012, was quoted in the official Hainan Daily on Friday as saying that preparations were under way to build an environmental monitoring station on Panatag Shoal.

The preparatory work on the station and others on five other islands in the South China Sea is among the top priorities of China for 2017, Xiao said.

On Sunday, Mr. Duterte said he could not stop China from building on Panatag Shoal because it was too powerful. “We cannot stop China from doing [these] things,” he told a news conference in Davao City before leaving for Burma (Myanmar).

“What do you want me to do, declare war against China? I can’t. We will lose all our military and policemen tomorrow and we [will be] a destroyed nation,” he said.

Strong protest

“Any statement that the Philippines cannot stop China from building on Scarborough Shoal actually encourages China to build on Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio warned.

He said “the least” Mr. Duterte could do was to lodge a “strong formal protest” against Beijing’s planned construction of an environmental monitoring station on Panatag.

He said Vietnam protested after a Chinese-registered private cruise ship set sail for the Paracels, a group of islands claimed by Hanoi that China, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim as their own.

Carpio said Mr. Duterte could also deploy a Philippine Navy ship to patrol Panatag Shoal and solicit the help of the United States, the Philippines’ oldest military ally, to generate military muscle.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” Carpio said.

Regarded as the “mother” of all military deals between the two countries, the August 1951 agreement stipulates that “an armed attack on either of the parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

Carpio said the Philippines may follow the lead of Japan and ask the United States to recognize Panatag Shoal as “part of Philippine territory for purposes” of invoking the MDT.

He pointed out that Tokyo had asked the United States to declare the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea “as part of Japanese territory for purposes of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty.”

“[Panatag Shoal] has been part of Philippine territory even during the American colonial period,” Carpio said.

Mr. Duterte, he said, may opt to consider the Americans’ invitation for the United States and the Philippines to conduct joint naval patrols in the South China Sea.

“This will demonstrate joint Philippine and US determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio said.

Carpio said Mr. Duterte should “avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.”

“This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Mr. Duterte, however, is unlikely to take the US option, having adopted an “independent foreign policy” to steer the Philippines away from US influence and called then US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” for criticizing his brutal war on drugs.

He has also scaled back military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States and threatened to scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows US forces increased access to Philippine military bases.

Carpio had earlier warned that China’s reported construction project on Panatag Shoal was a prelude to its plan to limit air travel in the region by declaring an air defense identification zone.

“These developments call for a national debate, and consensus, on how the nation should proceed with its bilateral relations with China,” he said.

The Hague ruling

China seized Panatag Shoal after a two-month standoff with Philippine vessels in 2012, but The Hague court declared in July last year that China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea had no legal basis and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereignty and right to explore for resources in waters within its EEZ.

China rejected the ruling, insisting that it had “undisputed sovereignty” over the South China Sea but offered to settle rival claims through bilateral negotiations.

Besides China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim parts of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in global trade passes every year and where islets, reefs and atolls are believed to be sitting atop vast energy reserves.

Mr. Duterte, a self-styled socialist, upended Philippine foreign policy after winning presidential election last year by deferring assertion of The Hague ruling and making friendly overtures to China and Russia and distancing himself from the United States. —WITH REPORTS FROM AFP AND AP

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/153618/carpio-tells-duterte-defend-ph-shoal#ixzz4btny8fRt
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Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. Philstar.com/File photo
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MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
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Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
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The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
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In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
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“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
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China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
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An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
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In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
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“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
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Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
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Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
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“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
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He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
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Related:
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 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Philippine President Duterte Seeking Allies For At Sea Code of Conduct

March 20, 2017
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Duterte is welcomed by his Myanmar counterpart U Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in the capital Naypyitaw yesterday. Duterte flew to Bangkok, Thailand last night. AP

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.

The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.

The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.

Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.

“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.

But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.

“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.

Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.

“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.

He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.

“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.

“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.

Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.

Defend Panatag

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.

Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.

The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”

But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.

First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.

The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.

Related:

 

China is more than willing to share the Philippines with Filipinos, Beijing says — And Vietnam?

March 20, 2017

By Alan Robles

OPINION

Posted at Mar 20 2017 04:18 PM

China is more than willing to share the Philippines with Filipinos, Beijing said yesterday.

According to official China spokesperson Rodrigo Duterte, “there’s no need to be greedy, there is more than enough Philippines to go around.”

“Equal shares with equal brothers,” he added.

 Image may contain: 1 person, sitting
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reacts during a press conference at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday, March 13, 2017. AP/Aaron Favila
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The spokesperson said China was making the “generous offer in the light of the extra warm relations between our countries.” The announcement came after the two countries signed a groundbreaking agreement called the “Extra Close Special Luv Kiss Kiss” treaty.

Part of the agreement will see the Philippines receiving billions of yuan in loans, a national railway called the China’s Durable Railroad (CDR) and fentanyl.

“We particularly value the fentanyl,” said a Filipino diplomat who asked not to be identified.

Tabs of fentanyl, manufactured to look like prescription pills, are seen in a synthetic drug-testing lab at the Drug Enforcement Agency's Special Testing and Research Lab in Sterling, Va. in 2016

Tabs of fentanyl, manufactured to look like prescription pills, are seen in a synthetic drug-testing lab at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Special Testing and Research Lab in Sterling, Va. in 2016.  PHOTO: T.J. KIRKPATRICK FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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The Philippines promises (among other things) to stop using the name “West Philippine Sea” (WPS) and instead adopt the “proper nomenclature” – “Very Much China’s Sea Oh Yes Indeedy” (VMCSOYI).

China, for its part, will invest heavily in the Philippines and buy more products such as bananas, copies of the Duterte Manifesto, and Filipino entertainment series. One Chinese politician said, “China would like to the rights to that famous comedy show, ‘The Senate Hearings.’ It’s a big hit in Beijing.”

Chinese officials “strenuously” denied rumors the Philippines had actually turned itself over to China, which officially responded with a statement, “Awww you shouldn’t have, but thanks.”

“That is clearly nonsense,” one Beijing diplomat assured. “What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours.”

Image result for oil rig, china flag, photos

China announced that on this historic occasion, as a sign of its “fraternal ties” with Manila, China would waive all fees to Filipinos swimming on the beaches off Lingayan.

“Offer valid for summer only, terms may apply,” a Chinese official said, off the record.

A senior Chinese leader told a press conference, “and if you’re extra good and well behaved, we’ll even let you share the resources of Benham Rise.”

Told by one reporter that Benham Rise is on the Pacific side of the Philippines, well outside the South China Sea, the Chinese leader made a cutting motion on his throat and the reporter was dragged away screaming.

“Next question please,” the official said.

Spokesperson Duterte expressed confidence that with “mutual confidence and more hard work” Manila would acknowledge China’s “indisputable” rights to the Pacific Ocean, the North Pole, the aurora borealis and the Moon.

Philippine diplomats declared the country was more than prepared to assert its rights in the strongest ways, which would follow two tracks: the first would consist of “strong declarations” made in the “loudest possible whisper” in a deep dark basement in Malacañang Palace.

“With the door closed and the lights out,” one undersecretary stressed.

The second track would consist of shooting more Filipinos.

“Why not, we’ve been very successful at it,” the undersec shrugged.

Beijing said it was “pleased” the agreement frees the Philippines from the “onerous” job of defending territory, letting it focus on really crucial priorities, such as training more world class professional boxers to become idiot senators.

In fact, spokesperson Duterte said, “China doesn’t see what the Philippines needs a military for. Get rid of that thing. Nothing to defend.”

A junketing member of the Philippine delegation said the agreement was a “win-win” because “this will avoid an unnecessary bloody war.”

“Because as we all know, the only way you settle territorial disputes is by bloody war. It says so right here in the “Duterte Manual of Negotiation and Tokhang.”

The Philippine delegation said it was “overcome with gratitude” for Beijing’s generosity.

“On behalf of the Philippines we thank you,” Philippine president Rodrigo said.

“You’re welcome”, China spokesperson Duterte replied.

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http://www.hotmanila.ph/

Philippines: Supreme Court Associate Justice reminds President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid waiving Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory

March 20, 2017
By: – Reporter / @T2TupasINQ
/ 12:51 PM March 20, 2017
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Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and nature
A Filipino fishing vessel ventures into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. —REM ZAMORA

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid any statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their natural patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said.

Carpio’s statement came after Duterte said he cannot stop China from implementing its plan to build structures on the disputed Panatag Shoal for now.

In 2012, China seized Panatag Shoal or the Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels. China denied Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough’s rich fish stock.

Filipinos have been able to go back to Scarborough after Duterte reached out to Beijing and restored good diplomatic ties, which were damaged when President Benigno Aquino III tried to forcefully enforce Philippine authority on the shoal.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries.

Duterte said if the US was not able to stop China, what could the Philippines do?

Carpio said Duterte was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which is tasked by the Constitution to defend the country’s territory.

He pointed out that under Republic Act 9522 or the Philippines’ Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippine territory.

Carpio said since the Philippines was no match to China militarily, the President could fulfill his constitutional duty by doing any, some or all of the following:

  • File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity.

“This is the least that the President should do,” Carpio said.

Carpio said that is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels.

  • Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio said if the Chinese attack the Philippine navy vessels, the country can invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea.

  • Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty since the shoal has been part of  Philippine territory even during the American colonial period.

The high court’s Senior magistrate and an expert in the maritime dispute with China said “the US has declared the Senkakus as part of Japanese territory for purposes of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty.”

  • Accept the standing US offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio said “this will demonstrate joint Philippine and US demonstration to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.”

Aquino earlier tried to use the Navy to assert the rights of the Philippines over Scarborough, but China responded by sending more of its ships to the shoal.

China also began building artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, which is reportedly already being militarized by Beijing.

The US has conducted patrols and freedom of navigation exercises in the West Philippine Sea but has not stopped China from reportedly arming its artificial islands. CBB/rga

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/882226/carpio-cautions-duterte-on-statements-about-west-philippine-sea#ixzz4bqE16wZP
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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

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