MANILA, July 1, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano - Vice President Jejomar Binay called off yesterday a planned visit to China to save a convicted Filipina drug smuggler from execution, saying Beijing had declined to receive him.

Binay said he was to have left during the day, carrying a letter from President Aquino to Chinese President Xi Jinping, asking that the woman be spared from execution, which is expected not later than tomorrow.

“This Saturday, I was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has sent word that now would not be a convenient time for me to visit China,” Binay said in a statement.

“I wanted to go to China to personally appeal for compassion. I am sad, however, that China has chosen to take this position regarding my visit,” added Binay, who is presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) concerns.

Binay said he was “left with no option but to cancel my trip to China.”

“I ask for prayers for our compatriot and her family,” Binay said.

The convicted Filipina and her male cousin were arrested for smuggling more than 12 kilos of high-grade heroin into China in 2011.

Her cousin had his execution set back by two years.

Chinese embassy spokesmen in Manila could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Palace still hopeful

Malacañang was saddened by China’s decision to turn down Binay’s visit, but remained optimistic on the response to a letter of President Aquino which had been sent earlier seeking for a stay in the execution of the Filipina drug mule.

“It’s unfortunate that the response to the visit was as such. But we have already sent the advance letter of the President,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over government-run radio dzRB.

“At this point, we are waiting for a favorable response given that the letter had been conveyed through the appropriate channels,” Valte said.

Aquino had previously sent Binay to China in February 2011 to seek a reprieve for three Filipinos also convicted of drug trafficking, but the three were executed the following month.

The executions triggered widespread condemnation in the Philippines, which abolished the death penalty in 2006.

The latest case comes amid already rocky bilateral relations between the two countries soured by overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

About a tenth of the Philippines’ 100 million population work abroad, many of them under harsh conditions where drug traffickers sometimes exploit them into becoming drug mules.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, 213 Filipinos have been jailed in drug-related cases in China. – With Delon Porcalla


China media warns PH of 'counterstrike' in South China Sea Reuters Posted at 06/29/2013 11:51 AM | Updated as of 06/29/2013 11:51 AM

[Philippine President Benigno Aquino III delivers his speech in front of the statue of Filipino revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio as they mark the 115th Philippine Independence Day at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines on Wednesday June 12, 2013. Aquino III vowed Wednesday his country will not back down from any challenge to its sovereignty and territory amid a sea dispute with China. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila]

BEIJING - China's state media warned on Saturday that a "counterstrike" against the Philippines was inevitable if it continues to provoke Beijing in the South China Sea, potentially Asia's biggest military troublespot.

The warning comes as ministers from both countries attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei, starting Saturday, which hopes to reach a legally binding code of conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas.

At stake are potentially massive offshore oil reserves. The seas also lie on shipping lanes and fishing grounds.

Both China and the Philippines have been locked in a decades-old territorial squabble over the South China Sea, with tensions flaring after the Philippines moved new soldiers and supplies last week to a disputed coral reef, prompting Beijing to condemn Manila's "illegal occupation".

The overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary that the Philippines had committed "seven sins" in the South China Sea.

These include the "illegal occupation" of the Spratly Islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters and promoting the "internationalization" of the waters, said the commentary.

The Philippines has called on the United States to act as a "patron", while ASEAN has become an "accomplice," said the commentary, which does not amount to official policy but can reflect the government's thinking.

"The Philippines, knowing that it's weak, believes that 'a crying child will have milk to drink'," the People's Daily said, accusing Manila of resorting to many "unscrupulous" tricks in the disputed waters.

Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the sea.

The 10-member ASEAN hopes to reach a legally binding Code of Conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas. For now a watered-down "Declaration of Conduct" is in place.

On Thursday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea that look for help from third parties will find their efforts "futile", adding that the path of confrontation would be "doomed".

Last week, China vowed to protect its sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Ren'ai reef. The Philippines is accusing China of encroachment after three Chinese ships, including a naval frigate, converged just five nautical miles from an old transport ship that Manila ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory.

Last year, China and the Philippines were locked in a tense two-month standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, which is only about 124 nautical miles off the Philippine coast. Chinese ships now control the shoal, often chasing away Filipino fishermen.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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