MANILA, JULY 24, 2012 (MANILA TIMES) Written by AFP - PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd urged all Filipinos on Monday to unite in sending a message to China over a territorial row, insisting his country would not give in to its more powerful neighbor.

In his annual "state of the nation" address to parliament, President Aquino said his government had shown goodwill and forbearance in handling the months-long dispute over competing claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"I ask for solidarity from our people regarding this issue. Let us speak with one voice. Help me relay to the other side the logic of our stand," Mr. Aquino said.

"If someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?"

Mr. Aquino recalled how the row began in April when Chinese government ships blocked Philippine boats from arresting Chinese fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, an outcropping claimed by both countries in the West Philippine Sea.

He said the Philippines had since ignored the Chinese state-run media's "harangues" over the issue.

"I do not think it is excessive to ask that our rights be respected, just as we respect their rights as a fellow nation in a world that we share," Aquino said.

China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and gas, is one of the region's most important fishing grounds and is home to shipping lanes that are vital to global trade.

[PHOTO -Anti-government protesters clash with police during a demonstration in Manila (AFP, Noel Celis)]

The Philippines, as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea, making the area one of the region's potential military flashpoints.

The Philippines and Vietnam have complained over the past year that China has becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the area.

Aquino said the Philippines was looking to find a resolution that was "acceptable to all", and made no threats.

However, in a separate part of his 90-minute speech, he also stressed he was pushing through with the modernization of the Philippine military, one of the most poorly equipped in Asia.

He said his government had allocated P28 billion ($67 million) for military modernization to acquire new hardware and repair old equipment, with new helicopters and a frigate due to arrive next year.

And he said the government was planning to spend P75 billion on defense over the next five years.

A large part of Aquino's speech was devoted to the economic reforms he said had been achieved since his administration took over from his graft-tainted predecessor, Gloria Arroyo.

Aquino cited as evidence economic growth of 6.4 percent for the Philippines in the first quarter of the year, one of the best in the region, as well as repeated credit ratings upgrades from international agencies.

He said his government had given millions of poor Filipinos greater access to health and education services, and that the unemployment rate had dropped from 8.0 percent in 2010 to 6.9 percent this year.

Aquino said the economic progress had been made possible because of efforts to tackle corruption that he alleged had infected all parts of government during the nearly 10 years that Arroyo was in power.

"Now, with a level playing field, and clear and consistent rules, confidence in our economy is growing," he said.

Aquino made repeated references to the plight of the nation under his predecessor, describing the Philippines then as a "rotten state", and vowing again to ensure those involved in corruption would be punished.

Arroyo has been one of his chief targets, and she is now in detention awaiting trial on vote fraud and corruption charges.


China building airstrip in reef near Pag-Asa Island? By Jaime Laude The Philippine Star Updated July 23, 2012 06:34 PM 4 comments to this post 

[PHOTO -Kalayaan is composed of only one barangay, Pag-Asa. This island has a 1.3 km airstrip that is used both by the military and civilians. It has a regulated civilian population of about 350, most of whom are fishermen. This civilian population is the result of Philippine government initial efforts to put civilians in the Kalayaan. Once a month, a Philippine Navy Ship goes to this island to drop supplies of goods. This island has a water-filtering plant, power generators, weather stations and a communication tower which is built by the Philippine-based SMART Telecommunications. The municipal government of Kalayaan is making new projects to promote tourism for the island. Also, they had been successful in convincing many Filipino businessmen to invest in Kalayaan. from wikipedia]

MANILA, Philippines - China is reportedly planning to build its first airstrip adjacent to the Pag-Asa Island, a Philippine-held territory in the hotly-contested Spratlys archipelago.

China's supposedly first air strip in the Spratlys region will be constructed at the Subi Reef, which is only 12 nautical miles from the Philippine-occupied Pag-Asa Island, the seat of Kalayaan Island's municipality in the Spratly region.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunie have interlocking territorial claims over the region while China, Vietnam and Taiwan are claiming the entire hotly-contested region as an integral part of their respective maritime domain.

Aside from two four-story buildings, two troop quarters, China has also installed a big radar dome and a lighthouse within the six kilometers long and 3.7 kilometers wide Subi reef.

At the northern tip of the reef is a lighthouse that on calm seas, can be seen from Pag-Asa.

In an aerial territorial patrol conducted last week, the Philippine military spotted a Chinese landing ship armed with three heavy weapons. The ship was moored in SUbi reef when spotted during the aerial inspection, which was conducted to monitor the fishing expedition of a Chinese fleet in the disputed region.

“As we have gathered, China is planning to replicate in Subi Reef what the Malaysians have done in their occupied Layang-Layang Reef," Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said.

Layang-Layang is currently being marketed by the Malaysian government as one of its finest dive resort in the region. From a reef, the Malaysians developed the area into an island resort with an airport, a hotel and a naval detachment.

Subi Reef and nearby islets, shoal, cays, atolls and reefs in the Spratly’s region are within the 64,976 square miles under the territorial jurisdiction of the Kalayaan Island municipality as per Presidential Decree 1596 declared by then late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Republic Act No. 9522 which was later signed into law has defined the territorial jurisdiction of Kalayaan municipality based in Pag-Asa Island in the hotly-contested Spratlys, as regime of islands under the province of Palawan.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved